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Mapo Tofu

This is one of my favorite go-to dishes when I can’t think of what to cook.  Hubs loves mapo tofu and eats it often.  The following recipe is an amalgam of different recipes I found on mapo tofu last year.  :)  I used less ground pork than what is normally called for because Hubs likes a greater ratio of tofu to pork.

Ma Po Tofu

1/4 pound ground pork
2-3 stalks green onions, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
4 T vegetable oil, divided
2 T chili bean sauce
2 t. rice wine for cooking (I use the ShaoHsing brand)
1 t. white wine vinegar
1/2 c. chicken broth
2 t. sugar
2 t. cornstarch
1-2 T Sichuan peppercorn powder
1 pack of silken/soft tofu–this is important, it won’t be as good with the firm tofu

In a small pan, heat 2 T. of vegetable oil on medium-high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the ground pork, using a spatula to break up lumps.  Try to break up the ground pork as much as possible so that there are no large lumps of pork.  Once the pork has cooked thoroughly, transfer the pork to a plate, being sure to drain away the excess oil.

Next, in a large, clean pan, heat up the remaining 2 T. vegetable oil on medium heat.  Add the garlic and lightly brown, stirring frequently.  Quickly add the chili bean sauce, rice wine and white vinegar, stirring well to incorporate the garlic and to ensure the mixture does not start to burn.  Cook the mixture no more than 30 seconds, then add the chicken broth and sugar and mix well.  To thicken the sauce, make a cornstarch slurry by mixing 2 t. cornstarch and 1/8 cup of water in a small bowl.  Once the cornstarch has dissolved completely (no lumps), stir the slurry into the sauce, mixing well.  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, prepare the tofu.  Open the top of the tofu package, leaving the tofu in the package.  Using a knife, cut the tofu into large cubes, cutting in a cross-hatch pattern.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t cut perfect cubes–the silken tofu will break up easily once you add it to the pan.  Once the sauce has come to a boil, add the tofu to the pan.  Gently stir to lightly incorporate the tofu into the sauce, being careful not to break apart the silken tofu too much.  When the mixture re-boils, add the cooked ground pork, chopped green onions and ground Sichuan peppercorn powder*.  Stir and mix.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes, then serve.

Feeds 4-6 as part of a multi-course meal.

*I personally love the smell of fresh ground Sichuan peppercorn.  I hand grind the Sichuan peppercorns using a mortar and pestle while waiting for the mixture to reboil.  After grinding the peppercorns into powder, its best to first sift it through a sieve before adding to the sauce.  This is to ensure that the peppercorn shells and uncrushed pieces don’t accidentally get mixed into the mapo tofu.

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