Last night I was starving, with no fast meal in sight. I rummaged in the fridge to see what we had, and found leftover sweet and sour sauce from the fried tofu the night before. I also found a lovely assortment of fresh Chinese peas and assorted vegetables. I somehow wanted to enjoy the peas on their own, so I looked through one of my favorite Chinese cookbooks and came across a deceptively simple recipe for peppercorn oil seasoned peas. I prepared the szechuan pepper oil, and then cleaned out the pan to throw together a sweet and sour vegetable saute with broccoli, carrots, green chilies, and a leftover zucchini. (The zucchini turned out to be a mistake). Once it was done, I added the sweet and sour sauce to the pan, and plated it. Next I threw together the peas, which turned out to be one of those really tasty dishes that surpasses its ingredients. I tasted it and thought I was eating at a Chinese restaurant- no, actually, it was too good to be from an ordinary restaurant, especially considering the simple ingredients. The best part was, absolutely no soy sauce, so even those with a soy allergy can enjoy it. Try it- the salty rich flavor will surprise you- and the secret is to avoid overcooking the peas so that they retain their crispiness. Sometimes simple dishes are the best…
You can find my earlier post about Szechuan Peppercorns here
And you can view Wikipedia’s entry on Szechuan pepper at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_Pepper
Szechuan Peppercorn Chinese Peas
1 cup peanut oil
1 1/2 tbsp Szechuan peppercorn
(Will have a large amount left over for future recipes)
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 tbsp Szechuan oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves, smashed
3/4 lb snow peas
Heat a wok on high and add Szechuan to pan, tossing lightly. Turn heat to low and toast peppercorn lightly, stirring frequently- about a minute and a half. Add the peanut oil and raise heat to medium or medium high, depending on your stove. Once oil begins to bubble lightly (if it ever does), lower heat and let cook until peppercorns turn black. This is supposed to take four or five minutes, but it took a long time for the peppercorns to turn black on my stove. Let cool and strain into a glass container (with a lid). Will keep for one or two months in a cool place. You can use the peppercorn in stock, so keep them in the refrigerator.
Prepare snow peas by removing string on the sides, unless you’re lazy like me, and slice at an angle or julienne. Have all your ingredients at hand and ready to use.
Heat your (clean) wok over high heat, add oil and toss in salt. When the oil smokes slightly, add garlic, stir, and add snow peas when garlic turns light brown (but before it burns!!). Stir fry, and as soon as the peas turn green, remove from heat and serve.
This was absolutely wonderful with rice and another Chinese vegetable dish. Great flavor and NO SOY SAUCE!! (For those allergic to soy… ) If you can have tofu, that would be a nice accompanying dish. Seafood might also be nice with this. (as a separate dish)