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Recipe

Mapo Tofu

Jody Horton

Servings: 2 or more, paired with a vegetable dish

This searingly spicy tofu dish is quintessentially Sichuan with its mala (spicy hot and numbing) flavors. This recipe is a very spicy version of the dish, close to the original, but the heat level can be adjusted downward by reducing the amount of red chile powder.

Ingredients

For the tofu and beef

  • 1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 4 oz. lean ground beef

For the chile bean paste oil

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbs. minced scallion whites
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. Chinese red chile powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Sichuan peppercorn powder
  • 2 Tbs. Sichuan chile bean paste
  • 1 Tbs. fermented black beans, coarsely chopped

For the sauce

  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or water
  • 2 Tbs. Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. tapioca starch
  • 2 Chinese leeks, cut crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Preparation

  • Put the tofu in a medium saucepan and add 5 cups water and the salt. Bring the water to a boil and then cook gently over medium heat for 5 minutes, until the tofu is soft. Turn the heat off and let the tofu sit in the water.
  • Heat a wok over high heat until a droplet of water sizzles and evaporates immediately upon contact. Swirl the vegetable oil around the bottom and sides of the wok to coat it evenly. Add the ground beef to the wok and stir-fry for about 3 minutes or until the beef has browned slightly. Remove the beef from the wok and transfer it to a bowl.
  • To make the chile bean paste oil, heat the vegetable oil in the wok over medium heat until it is just starting to shimmer, about 350°F. Add the scallion whites and ginger to the wok and stir-fry for about 30 seconds. Add the chile powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder and stir-fry for about 30 seconds or until the oil has turned red. Add the chile bean paste and fermented black beans and stir-fry for another 30 seconds.
  • Drain the tofu and add it to the wok. Return the cooked ground beef to the wok. Stir in all the sauce ingredients. Cover the wok and simmer over medium heat for about 3 minutes, until the tofu has absorbed the flavors.
  • In a small bowl, mix the tapioca starch with 2 Tbs. water to make a slurry. Stir it into the broth and cook until the broth has thickened, about 1 minute. Add the leek slices and simmer for 30 seconds, until they just turn bright green.

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