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Celebrating Chinese New Year with Szechuan Stew

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To truly experience the wondrous joy of Chinese New Year (this year being the Year of the Horse), one must surround themselves with color, joy, laughter and great food. You don't have to be Chinese to celebrate this festive time of the year and many cities across American will be holding parades to honor the Year of the Horse during the 15-day celebration. Personally, I can't think of a better way of celebrating than with some classic dishes from China (real Chinese food, not Americanized Chinese food).

One of the most popular Szechuan dishes in the world is a dish called Szechuan Stew. It is indeed a meal within a bowl and pretty much exemplifies the Szechuan style of Chinese cooking. There are many varieties of Szechuan Stew and each has their own distinctive flavor. When we decided to present this dish we wanted to amp up the flavor and intensify the overall texture of the dish.

Our version of Szechuan Stew has more ingredients than you might be used to and this is for the simple reason that we want it to be a dish you will remember. It does have a nice spicy bite to it, but not to the point where it will hamper the other flavors. The pure exotic taste of Asian cuisine is still very evident, yet we enhanced it with a slight hint of citrus and just the right tongue-tingling amount of sweetness.

Ingredients needed to make Szechuan Stew (serves 4):

  • 2 pounds prawns, shelled
  • 1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 green onions, cut in thirds
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 3 strips orange zest
  • ¼ cup corn oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. whole black peppercorns
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine
  • 2 Tbs. sweet bean paste
  • 1 Tbs. Chinese chili sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch
  • 3 Tbs. water

Steps:

  1. In a medium saucepan combine the prawns, tofu, green onions, ginger, star anise and orange. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Remove the prawns and tofu after 10 minutes and cook the rest for 30 more minutes.
  2. In a small skillet over medium heat add the oil, garlic, peppercorns, soy sauce, rice wine, sweet bean paste, chili sauce and sugar and cook 3 minutes.
  3. Stir the sweet bean mixture into the soup, cover and cook 10 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl whisk together the cornstarch and water.
  5. Place the prawns and tofu into serving bowls.
  6. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the soup until the creamy color disappears and it has thickened.
  7. Before serving remove and discard the star anise and orange zest.

The internationally bestselling cookbook from Chef Larry Edwards, "Edwardian Cooking: 80 Recipes Inspired by Downton Abbey's Elegant Meals," is now in it's third printing and available worldwide in both hard cover and e-book versions. The paperback version will be released March 4, 2014.

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