The Spontaneous Vegetarian: Szechuan Chinese Peas and Sweet and Sour Veggie Stir Fry

snowpeassweetdish.jpgLast 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. chinesepeassweetsour.jpgI 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

Szechuan Peppercorn Chinese Peas
Szechuan oil:
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

Szechuan oil:
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)

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10 Responses to “The Spontaneous Vegetarian: Szechuan Chinese Peas and Sweet and Sour Veggie Stir Fry”

  1. [...] Most restaurants and many home chefs add wheat based soy sauce to fried rice, making it off limits both to those who are gluten free and soy free. When I make fried rice, in the past I’ve used a recipe that included seafood and wheat free soy sauce. But I really wanted to make a great vegetarian fried rice that didn’t have soy sauce so that my soy intolerant friends could enjoy it as well. But surely soy sauce gives fried rice most of its flavor, doesn’t it? How could I make up for the missing dark, salty notes of soy sauce? I decided to use a sauce with two kinds of alcohol, freshly squeezed ginger juice, and some vegetable broth made from my favorite vegetarian, gluten free bullion cube. I also used generous amounts of salt, sesame oil, and chili oil to up the decadence of the dish. And, to add additional flavor and a little gourmet oomph, I used some leftover szechuan peppercorn oil that I had used in a Szechuan Peppercorn Chinese Peas. Because I felt like the dish needed a savory, grilled component I grilled seasoned broccoli and petit pan squash to add depth of flavor replacing the smoky flavor that ham would usually provide. And the result? A resounding success that was perfectly vegetarian, allergy friendly, and still so delicious I could hardly stop eating it. If you have some poor, unloved rice in your fridge- why not transform it into pure Chinese fried goodness? It’s bound to please even the most fervent of meat eaters in your household- if you’re willing to share, that is. [...]

  2. YUM! Now I must make the SZP Oil….endless possibilities.

  3. [...] Want other Chinese vegetarian recipes? Try my Chinese Broccoli Mushroom Recipe Szechuan Chinese Peas [...]

  4. bob g/f/ salt Says:

    just found your blog-site…..i especially like the pics…………..
    but isn’t tofu made from soy?……….i always thought it was?
    thanks for all the great recipes…………………….

  5. Hi Bob. Yes, tofu is made from soy. But there is no soy or tofu in this recipe… I can eat soy, but sometimes I happen to make or adapt recipes to be soy free for those who can’t have soy.


  6. [...] Chinese Szechuan pepper chinese peas Spicy peanut green beans white [...]

  7. Oh wow, I am so totally jazzed. Thanks so much, Brenda! Between an allergy to sesame, and issues with soy and all things fermented, I’d given up on Chinese. I will try this soon…I actually even have some, even though I don’t remember why. =)

  8. [...] Recipe (Veg) Gluten Free Chinese Food: Spicy Chili Tofu and Chinese Mushroom Broccoli Recipe (Veg) Szechuan Chinese Peas and Sweet and Sour Veggie Stir Fry (Veg, Soy Free) Special Fried Rice (optional seafood [...]

  9. [...] sauce recipe Summer Rolls Vegan Lunchbox-Style Gluten-Free Soy-Free Chinese Fried Rice Recipe Soy-free Szechuan Chinese Pea Recipe Soy-free Szechuan Chili-Zucchini Brown fried Rice [...]

  10. I’ve found a great soy sauce alternative that works super well for cooking. It’s a rough, add-ingredients-to-taste type of recipe that calls for 1/4 c. molasses, 1 c. water, and lots of salt and garlic powder to taste. It seems to keep wel in the fridge for at least several weeks.

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