This tale is about naming items. I named this dish Szechuan/Sichuan Paneer, actually, because I was scratching my head when I was asked “What do you call this dish!”. Truthfully speaking, I don’t think this dish has any real connection to the said country, beyond the fact that it is pretty much hot, and generally, a number of food from that province in China uses a good hit of spices in their cooking, which includes chillies. Beyond that, my recipe has NO CONNECTION to the region whatsoever. It is something I make when I am in a hurry and I want to cook food pronto. This recipe has saved me plenty of times, by cooking in 15 minutes, from start to end.

Here is my quick recipe which makes two to three people super-happy.

Prepare a chilli-garlic paste first. I make this and keep it at home and pour it over everything. Soak 10 dry red chillies and 12 cloves of garlic in 1/2 cup plain vinegar for a few minutes. Blend on high speed in a blender or in your humble mortar and pestle till the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Let stand for 5 minutes before using.

In a wok or old frying pan where you have no issues burning the bottom out of, heat a couple of teaspoons of oil over low heat. Smear it all around the pan. Meanwhile, chop 200 gm. paneer into 1-inch cubes (you can always substitute paneer for tofu, other vegetables, chicken or fish. For the last two, it would be better to batter fry them rather than just frying them). Apply some salt, pepper, and a teaspoon of cornflour on the paneer, and arrange them on a single layer, laying them out flat. Cook over slow heat for 3-4 minutes, or until they are golden on one side. Turn them and cook the other side.

 While frying the paneer, chop up 1 green bell pepper (capsicum) and 1 onion. I like dicing them. Also, you can finely mince some garlic and grate some ginger. I like both so I add about a teaspoon of each. Once the paneer is fried, remove and put it aside. Add about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the pan and put in 2 dry red chillies, torn into small pieces. Add the onion and pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Stir fry over high heat for 3-4 minutes, constantly tossing the mixture so that it does not stick to the pan. Once the ingredients are fried, add 2 tablespoon of the chilli garlic paste made earlier, the ginger and garlic, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and the paneer. Stir fry over high heat for 2-3 minutes. Then add salt to taste, a big pinch of black pepper powder (you can totally use freshly crushed Szechuan Peppercorns if you have it). Remove from the heat and serve immediately.

If you want to make a gravy out of this, simply add 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 teaspoon cornflour and stir till a thick gravy is formed. Adjust salt in that case after adding the water. However, I like it dry. This recipe is perfect for the times when you want something quick, and it can be made easily with firm tofu.

I have shared this recipe on air at 94.3 Radio One yesterday, 19th July, 2013, on the show Arvind’s Kitchen, as part of the rainy season recipes. I talked to RJ Arvind, the host, and we had a lovely time chatting about rain, food in general, and a number of other things. I went there as a representative of Kolkata Food Bloggers, (click on the link to like our FB page) and you can hear more from other fantastic members of the group in the coming weeks at Arvind’s Kitchen, which goes live from 3-4 in the afternoon on Wednesdays and Fridays.

I will leave you with a picture of me with RJ Arvind. It was a lot of fun and I am glad I got the chance to go live!

Notice my facial expression. That is what happens when you are trying to suppress a monster laugh and failing miserably.
Written by Poorna Banerjee

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