Ma Po Tofu
MA PO TOFU SERVES 6
Now a hallmark of many Chinese restaurant menus, this legendary Sichuanese dish is named after a pockmarked (ma) old lady (po) who is said to have created the recipe. Though it contains meat, this dish is popular among vegetarians (by omitting the meat) and beautifully showcases the tofu and bean paste responsible for its distinct flavor. The flavor and spiciness of ma po tofu is often muted to cater to Western palates, but this more traditional version rewards spice lovers with the full spectrum of heat—without going overboard and interfering with the flavor balance.
½ pound ground pork
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons chili bean paste (doubanjiang)
1 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuanese peppercorns
½ cup chicken broth 1 pound soft (“silken”) tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 scallions (green and white parts), thinly sliced
Perfect Steamed Rice, for serving
In a small bowl, stir the ground pork with the cornstarch and soy sauce. Let marinate for 10 minutes.
Heat the vegetable oil in a wok set over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the marinated pork and stir-fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until it is just cooked through.
Add the bean paste and the Sichuanese peppercorns; stir-fry for 1 minute. Then add the chicken broth, bring it to a simmer, and immediately add the tofu. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes to heat through. Sprinkle the scallions on top, and serve at once with hot rice on the side.