This is one for the spice lovers. The peppery heat hits you right between the eyes, with only a moment of relief offered by the calming tofu before you dive in for more. The dish hails from the spice province of Sichuan and the name means ‘pock-marked old woman’s tofu’, after the legendary lady who originally sold the dish.

Despite its punchy heat, this is actually a delicate recipe that celebrates tofu’s wobbly pannacotta-like texture, akin to perfect poached eggs. The button mushrooms bring a gentle bite to the dish. Serve with fluffy steamed rice, and a towel for mopping your forehead.

Serves 4

4 tbsp vegetable oil

4 spring onions (scallions), green parts only, finely chopped

4 tbsp Sichuan chilli bean paste

2 tbsp finely chopped or grated garlic

2 tbsp peeled and finely chopped or grated fresh ginger

1⁄2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

100ml/31⁄2fl oz/scant 1⁄2 cup water

600g/1lb 5oz firm or soft tofu, drained for 20 minutes and cut into
2.5cm/1 inch cubes

10 small button mushrooms, kept whole

2 tsp potato flour or corn flour

To serve (all optional)

coriander (cilantro)

2 pinches crushed Sichuan peppercorns

steamed rice and greens

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan (skillet), then throw in the spring onions, chilli bean paste and garlic. Cook for 2–3 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse. Stir in the ginger, white pepper and water.
  2. Place the tofu carefully into the pan and stir the sauce around it, then reduce the heat and add the mushrooms.
  1. In a small bowl, mix the potato flour with 1 tbsp water until smooth, then pour this mixture into the pan while stirring gently, to thicken
    the sauce around the tofu and mushrooms.
  1. Serve immediately scattered with coriander and Sichuan pepper, if you like, with steamed rice and greens.

Extracted from ‘Tofu Tasty: Imaginative tofu recipes for every day’ by Bonnie Chung, published by Pavilion Books. Image credit to Yuki Sugiura.


Please note this recipe book is not fully vegan however many of the recipes are and can adapted to be vegan friendly too!