If you’ve come this far with me in this little series, you may as well go the whole way. No, this one can’t be done with your usual supermarket ingredients. You are going to have to make a trip to the Asian supermarket. But, before you throw your hands in the air and mutter something that demeans your spirit, take my word for it, the journey will be worth it. This is probably the most famous dish from the Szechuan region, a provence famed for it’s fiery food. The bad news is that it is very, very (extremely very) hot. The good news is that it is really easy to prepare. The bonus is hot or not, it is delicious.
Mapo Tofu translates literally into Pock-Marked Old Lady Tofu. This refers to how the chopped pork looks sitting on the tofu (I hope). If done correctly, the hot chili burns your mouth, the Szechuan peppercorns numb your lips and the tofu cools things down a bit, making the whole experience bearable. It is more than bearable. It is wonderful.
- 2 pork chops
- 500 gms of tofu
- 2 tablespoons of spicy bean sauce
- 2 teaspoons of hot chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of chili oil
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon of Szechuan peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons of fermented black beans
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 inch or so of ginger
- 3 or 4 spring onions
I served it with some rice and tong choi. The tong choi is probably only available in the Asian supermarket. I also had a long cold beer. That was essential. As with much Asian cooking, there is a fair amount of knife work involved. I got my trusty Chinese cleaver out for this one.
The big knife might be over the top for cutting tofu but what the hell!
The big knife comes into it’s own when reducing the pork chops to a corse mince.
Soak the black beans in warm water. Then fry the peppercorns in a dry pan until they are smoking. Then put them in a mortar.
Then bash them into a fine powder.
Add some cooking oil and the chili oil to a hot wok.
When the oil is starting to smoke, add the ginger and garlic.
Quickly add the pork and start stir frying. You will know you are doing it right if you make the same distinctive metal on metal, scraping and echoing sounds you hear from a Chinese restaurant kitchen.
Next, add the hot chili powder. At this stage, I steamed the tong choi.
Add the black beans, soy sauce and chopped spring onions. Turn the heat down and simmer to cook the pork through. This should not take long.
Fold in the tofu, making sure to not break it up too much. Warm it through. Last thing to do is to sprinkle the Szechuan peppercorn powder over the dish and fold in.
Serve with rice, and the vegetable of your choice.
I don’t want to put you off. This was very fiery. It was also extremely tasty and very well worth doing. The only thing you need to do that is out of the ordinary is make that trip to the Asian supermarket. Go for it. I guarantee you will not regret it.