This is a smoky and nutty tofu and celery salad so full of flavor it’s the perfect side to a steaming white bowl of rice!

 tofu and celery salad

Spicy tofu and celery

Vegetarian spicy tofu and celery salad

About 2 years ago, my husband and I fell in love with a spicy smoked tofu and celery salad at Szechuan Gourmet on West 39th street. We’ve been going back ever since for this specific dish and haven’t seen it on any other menu in the city.

So you can understand my surprise when I saw that Marc Bittman, NY Times food columnist and author of ‘How to cook everything’ fell in love so deeply with the same dish that he decided to write about it and print the recipe! This tofu dish is like no other dish; the flavors are quite mild but the spiciness of the oil will make your lips tingle!

What makes it so special is the spiced oil and its unforgettable aromatics.

I’ve made changes to the recipe because some of the ingredients are harder to find than others. I use regular firm tofu (NOT medium nor extra firm) since I cannot find pressed tofu. It might also be harder to find sichuan peppercorns than chinese pepper. I also like to add a dash of soy for extra flavor.
This is one good Chinese recipe you’ll be filing under ‘favorites’!

Spicy tofu and celery salad

celery with silken tofu and spicy chili oil

This is a smoky and nutty tofu and celery salad so full of flavor it’s the perfect side to a steaming white bowl of rice!

  • Author: Caroline Phelps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Category: Salad
  • Cuisine: Chinese


  • 1 cup peanut oil
  • 1 inch ginger (sliced into thin strips)
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (or 1 teaspoon chinese pepper)
  • 3 tablespoons red chili flakes
  • 3 stalks celery (thinly sliced)
  • 4 ounce firm tofu (drained, dried and thinly sliced )
  • soy sauce (to taste)
  • salt (to taste)


  1. Wrap tofu with a towel or paper towel to soak up excess water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat; when it simmers, add ginger, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns and chili flakes. Remove from heat and let sit until cool, at least 1 hour
  3. Strain oil into a bowl or jar and discard spices. Put a pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add celery and blanch for about a minute; drain in colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.
  4. Layer celery and tofu on serving plates, drizzle with chili oil and sprinkle with salt and/or a dash of soy sauce.

Keywords: recipe, vegetarian, vegan, Asian, appetizer, side

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