Tofu, chili, perfection.

I’ve been eating this dish from Chinese restaurants for years, but I just recently found out, it’s is suppose to be very spicy. Well, as you know if you follow my recipes, I love spicy food, especially really spicy food, but I’ve never had really spicy Ma Po Tofu. Not surprisingly, I decided to make some! Found a bunch of recipes, several common threads, so I followed those, then changed things around to my own tastes. Ended up being quite easy to make, and on my first try, far better than any version I’ve had in a restaurant.

The trickiest part, and I still have to solve this one, is finding Szechuan peppercorn. Apparently this is something that only in the last few years could be imported into the US, but my big local Asian supermarket didn’t carry them. They have a distinct numbing effect, from all I’ve read, and I’ll continue to search for a local source. I finally found them at another local market. They weren’t labled as Szechuan Pepper, but the label said they came from Szechuan, so I asked, and they said that’s what it was. Does indeed have a numbing effect. Still need to find a second source, since I’ve simply memorized the design of the bag, which only helps if another market has exactly the same brand.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz Lean Ground Pork
  • 2 Tbsp of oil (to brown the pork)
  • 1 Package Tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes. I used firm, but all the recipes call for medium/soft
  • 3 Tbsp Chili Bean Paste (Broad bean if you can find it, I found black bean, it worked well)
  • Hot Chili paste to taste (I used 3 Tbsp of Chili paste in oil)
  • Additional ground chili to taste. I used 1 tsp ground chinese hot chili powder, and 2 Tbsp of chili flakes
  • Also, you can use whole red peppers as well
  • 1 tsp Szechuan Peppercorns (if you can find them), ground
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper (if you can’t find the Szechuan Peppercorns)
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
  • 3 slices of fresh ginger
  • 2 green onions, chopped, reserve some of the green parts for garnish
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Cup chicken stock
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 3 Tbsp water

Directions:

  • Put 2 Tbsp of oil in a wok on medium high heat
  • Add ground pork, cook until lightly browned
  • Add garlic, ginger, and white parts of the green onions, stir until fragrant
  • Add rice wine, soy, pepper and sugar, cook for a minute
  • Add all the chili, stir for 15-30 seconds
  • Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer
  • Add 1/3 of the cornstarch mixture, stir until the mixture thickens a bit
  • Add 1/2 of the remaining cornstarch mixture, stir in
  • Add the tofu, gently stir in, cook for about 5 minutes
  • Add the last of the cornstarch, very gently mix in, don’t break up the tofu
  • Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring gently
  • Garnish with chopped green onions, and serve with rice