Saturday, September 18, 2010

Mapo Tofu (Spicy Szechuan Tofu with Ground Pork)

This is Chinese comfort food at its best. It's rustic, spicy, nutritious (as long as you go easy on the oil), and really delicious to most, unless you're like my sister's boyfriend, Dan, who is not very keen on tofu. Whaa? Who the eff doesn't like tofu? eh, Dan? Well then, Bad Dan! Such a "Wang Ba Dan," "Hwai Dan"! "Dan Bing! "Dan Ta! "Dan Dan Mien! "Dan Gao! "Pi Dan." You name it, he is all that. Sorry for all the food epithets, Dan, but I just get all riled up in defense of the honor of tofu, ya know?

Anyhoo, tofu is widely available in most markets these days, but the hot bean paste, black bean sauce and Szechuan peppercorns you'll probably have to buy from an Asian market. I get mine from 99 Ranch Market, a Chinese supermarket chain in California. Szechuan Peppercorns are also available online from Penzey's Spices

2 14-oz. packages of soft (silken) tofu, cut into 1" dice
1 lb. ground pork
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, chopped
1/2 C. cilantro, chopped
1-2 large Jalapeno peppers, seeded & sliced (use the red ones if you have them)
1 pkg. sliced button or cremini mushrooms (optional)
1/2 C. frozen green peas
2 tbsp. Hot Bean Paste (or to your taste)
1 tbsp. Lee Kum Kee Black Bean Garlic Sauce (optional)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. ground Szechuan Peppercorn
2 C. low sodium chicken broth (or use 1 tbsp. Totole Chicken base powder to 2 C. water)
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
Cornstarch slurry (4 tbsp. water + 2 tbsp. cornstarch)

1. Heat wok over high heat. Add 3 tbsp. vegetable oil to the pan. When oil is very hot, add minced ginger, garlic, sliced jalapeno, half of the chopped scallion and half of the chopped cilantro. Saute briefly for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add sliced mushrooms and cook until they just start to soften & turn brown.

2. Add ground pork to pan and cook until pork is cooked through. Add hot bean paste, black bean paste, soy sauce, ground Szechuan peppercorn and sugar. Cook about 1 minute and then add diced tofu - stir well and cook an additional 1 minute.

3. Add chicken broth to tofu mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 15 minutes. Bring tofu back up to a boil and add green peas. Stir in cornstarch slurry and continue cooking until the sauce in the tofu is thickened. 

4. Turn off heat & stir in sesame oil and remaining chopped scallion and cilantro. Sprinkle with additional ground Szechuan peppercorns, if desired.

5. Serve with hot white rice.

Cut tofu into approximately 1 to 2" dice. Drain well.

Mince about 5-6 cloves of garlic (or more if you really like garlic).

Mince enough ginger root to make about 1 tablespoon's worth.

Dice the scallion and cilantro.

Slice the seeded Jalapeno.

You can also use red jalapenos (or a combo of the two).

Saute garlic & ginger in vegetable oil.

Add cilantro & scallions to the pan.

Add Jalapenos to the mix.

Add the sliced button mushrooms & cook until they start to soften.

Add the ground pork.

Accoutrements (clockwise from lower left). Sesame oil, hot bean paste (minus the black bean garlic sauce), ground Szechuan Peppercorns, soy sauce, sugar.

Bought this batch from Penzey's Spice House (I ground the whole peppercorns in a coffee grinder). Szechuan Peppercorns are also available in most Chinese markets.

Black bean garlic sauce, hot bean paste, sesame oil, soy sauce, Szechuan peppercorns.

Cornstarch slurry, chicken broth, and frozen peas.

Add spices and bean paste to the pork mixture.

Add the tofu.

Add chicken stock.

Stir in frozen peas.

Add cornstarch slurry to thicken.

Garnish with remaining scallions, cilantro, sliced chilies, and a sprinkling of ground Szechuan peppercorns. If you like it extra hot and don't mind the extra calories, you can also drizzle with some chili oil before serving. Serve with steamed white rice.

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