Szechuan ‘Clay Pot’ Casserole

11:30 am on 26 April 2011

Rowan Bishop’s Vegetarian Kitchen, published by Bateman

This casserole is a delectable combination of taste and texture with distinct Asian leanings. Modelled on Chinese clay pot cuisine, it is just as easily cooked in a casserole dish and well worth trying; a delicious, quite sophisticated dish, it is as simple to prepare as a stir-fry.

Szechuan peppercorns can be omitted but are a nice addition and available from Asian supply stores. They are neither peppery nor hot, but add a hint of citrus to augment the more traditional Asian flavours. Serve with plain steamed rice or hot crusty breads and a green, such as steamed bok choy.

Serves 4. Not suitable for freezing.


  • 400g eggplant, sliced into 5cm long x 1cm thick x 2cm wide strips
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4–5 Tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1½ tsp toasted, lightly crushed Szechuan peppercorns
  • ¾–1 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 Tbsp kecap manis
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2½ Tbsp cornflour
  • 150 g button mushrooms, halved
  • 150 g green beans, fresh or frozen
  • 200 g firm fresh tofu, sliced into strips about 5 cm long x 3 cm wide x 1 cm thick
  • salt and pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 190˚C. Prepare the eggplant, place the slices in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Press with paper towels to remove excess liquid.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a wok or heavy-based frying pan and sauté the onion, garlic and ginger over a gentle heat until the onion is soft, taking care not to scorch.

Stir in the remaining oil, eggplant, Szechuan peppercorns and chilli powder. Raise the heat a little and cook, tossing regularly, for 10–15 minutes, adding a little more oil if needed. Don’t be tempted to shorten this step; the eggplant should be thoroughly cooked.

Mix in the kecap manis and the hoisin sauce. Reduce the heat to very low and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Mix ½ cup of the stock or water, the soy sauce and the cornflour together and add to the wok with the balance of the stock or water. Turn the heat up a little and bring to simmer point.

Gently mix in the prepared mushrooms, beans and tofu. Transfer to a casserole with a lid and cook in the oven at 190˚C for 35–40 minutes.

Suggested wines to complement this recipe

Kowhai Point 2010

Pinot Noir
Neudorf Moutere 2009

From Nine To Noon

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