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Sichuan-style Mapo Tofu

I’ve grown up eating mapo tofu. My dad always made his own Cantonese version, which I would happily gobble up with my rice. Despite the fond memories, I was not satisfied with the mapo tofu I’ve come to know. It was too much like soybean, too mild in spice, and totally lacking the iconic numbing peppercorn. It didn’t have that robust flavor I was craving. 

So what makes the flavor robust? Good question! Pixian doubanjiang has actually been fermented for much longer than the Hong Kong brand, giving it a much darker color and earthy (almost smokey) flavor. If I had to draw a parallel, it would be similar to a much less sweet gochujang. This doubanjiang gives the mapo tofu its body. That’s why I don’t recommend substituting it with any other regional brands.

 

Sichuan Mapo Tofu
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 ts Sichuan peppercorn
  2. 1 Tb cooking oil
  3. 1 slice ginger, minced
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 2 tsp chili oil, optional
  6. 1 Tb Pixian chili bean paste (doubanjiang) *
  7. 2 ts salted black beans, crushed (douchi)
  8. 1-3 ts hot chili flakes, optional
  9. 1 ts light soy sauce
  10. 100 grams or ~4 oz Ground pork
  11. 1 cup chicken stock or water
  12. 1 Tb cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tb water
  13. 1 block soft tofu (425g), cubed
  14. 1 scallion, chopped
Instructions
  1. Toast peppercorns on medium heat, until fragrant. Transfer peppercorns to mortar and pestle to grind into fine powder.
  2. Turn up heat to medium-high. In the same wok, add cooking oil and fry ginger and garlic until golden brown.
  3. Add chili oil, chili bean paste, black beans, hot chili flakes, and soy sauce to the wok. Fry until fragrant.
  4. Add ground pork. Use your spatula to toss the meat and break up all the pieces.
  5. When pork is mostly cooked, add stock (or water), cornstarch slurry, and tofu. Use your spatula to mix gently. Cook for 5 minutes. Garnish with ground peppercorns and scallions and serve.
Notes
  1. I do not recommend making this dish without Pixian doubanjiang. Using Lee Kum Kee (or any other non-Sichuan brand) will fundamentally alter the taste of this dish. Substitute at your own risk!
Little Tomato http://littletomatoblog.com/

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