Saturday 21 January 2012

Ma Po Doufu/Tofu 麻婆豆腐 ( Pock-Ma Bean Curd)

Ma Po Doufu 麻婆豆腐 ( Pock-Ma Bean Curd)
Sichuan Peppercorns
Prepared ingredients
Cooking the Ma Po Doufu in the wok 
Ma Po Doufu 麻婆豆腐 ( Pock-Ma Bean Curd)

A quitessential Suchuanese dish, Ma Po Doufu is named after an old woman from Cheng du who created this tofu and meat dish. Her pockmarked complexion led to her being nicknamed "Pock-ma" or "Pock-woman' and thus immortalised in this famous Sichuan dish. Traditionally made with beef, but this can also be made with pork but I thought I should stick with tradition and use minced beef. Sichuan peppercorns is a must as this is what give this dish the signature tongue numbing and tingling sensation that is utterly unique and the Douban jiang or chilli bean paste provide the spiciness. One mouthful of this will send your taste buds run wild.
Seeing it's only a couple of days before the Chinese New Year, this is the perfect time for me to introduce this dish and what a perfect time for you to try this at home.
                                       新年快樂 !
                             恭喜發財 !

(Serves 4)

400g silken or firm bean curd, drained
150g minced beef or pork
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
3 spring onions, finely sliced into rings (reserved the green part for garnish later)
1 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste (Douban jiang)
1 tsp dried chilli flakes (more if you like it really spicy)
1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry 
1 tbsp soy sauce
a small pinch of sugar
200ml chicken stock or water
1 tbsp roasted sesame oil
1 tsp potato flour or cornflour, mixed with 1tbsp cold water

For the Marinade:
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp roasted sesame oil
a small pinch of sea salt
a small pinch of sugar

Toast the Sichuan peppercorns in a dry pan over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder. Reserved and set aside.

Cut the bean curd into 2cm cubes. Place the meat in a bowl together with the ingredients for the marinade and leave to marinate for 20-30 minutes.

Heat up the oil in a work over high heat until smoke rises. Add the garlic, ginger , black beans and white part of the onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds, then add the minced meat and stir-fry until it is slightly browned and partially cooked, mashing and chopping with a wok scoop or metal spatula to separate the pieces (you don't want clumps of meat).  Add the chilli bean paste , chilli flakes and rice wine and continue to stir-fry for 1 minute, until fragrant and the sauce have permeate the meat. Pour in the stock and slowly bring to the boil over moderate heat.

Add the bean curd and stir very gently so as not to break it up. Season with the soy sauce and sugar and levee to simmer for about 5 minutes, until the bean curd has absorb the flavour of the sauce. Pour in the well-stirred potato flour mixture and blend well. The sauce will start to thickened and has a glossy shine to it. Remove from heat and pour into a warm serving dish.

Drizzle with the sesame oil; garnish with a sprinkle of the ground Sichuan peppercorn and the reserved spring onion. This not only adds a very pretty red and green contrast but also subtle flavouring. Serves piping hot with some steamed rice.

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