Sunday, September 2, 2012

[Shinya Shokudou Chapter 13] Mapo Tofu

It's Shinya Shokudou time again!  This week's challenge is Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) or in Japanese, マーボー豆腐.

Mapo Tofu is one of my family's favourites and it's relatively easy to prepare so it can be thrown together quickly when I'm a little lazy to cook (hence a great Lazy Man's recipe!).  If you go to an Asian supermarket, you can even find various instant sauce packets for it, even though making it from scratch isn't all that difficult either, and it's MSG-free!

As a Chinese, it has always been known to me that Mapo Tofu is a Chinese dish from the Sichuan province.  Although I know it is very popular amongst the Japanese, just like a Japanese tourist would not go to China to eat sushi, I have never ordered Mapo Tofu in Japan, so I don't exactly know the difference between the traditional Sichuan version and the adapted Japanese version.

For this exercise, I wanted to make Mapo Tofu the Japanese way instead of the version that usually appears on our table, otherwise it would not be a challenge! When it comes to Mapo Tofu, Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi's famous recipe is the most representative in Japan. Iron Chef Chen's father is regarded as the pioneer who introduced Mapo Tofu (and Sichuan cuisine in general) to the Japanese.  Iron Chef Chen made his classic Mapo Tofu dish in the Battle Tofu episode to pay tribute to his father.  I really liked this episode and it remains to be one of the most memorable ones out of all those that I have seen.

I would have thought that, like the Japanese style curry, this recipe would be milder and sweeter than the traditional Mapo Tofu that I am used to, but it turns out it's not and I think it's at the right level of spiciness going so well with steamed rice. I love that it has a little tongue tingling sensation one expects from an authentic Sichuan dish.  This is a great recipe and I see myself making it over and over again.

1 block of firm cotton tofu (木綿豆腐), cut into 1 inch cubes
1 spring onion, separate the white part and the green part, chopped finely
80g ground pork
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 garlic, chopped finely

Seasoning (A):
1 heaping tablespoon doubanjiang (Chinese chili bean sauce, 豆瓣醬) – I used Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce since I have that at home already and it works well
1 heaping tablespoon tianmianjiang (Chinese sweet bean sauce, 甜麵醬)
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, chopped finely
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped finely
1 teaspoon ichimi togarashi pepper

Seasoning (B):
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and white pepper to taste

1 tablespoon corn/potato starch
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon huajiaofen (Sichuan peppercorns), grounded

1. Bring salted water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the tofu and on medium high heat.  Turn off the heat when the water boils again. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a wok and add ground pork. Cook on high heat until browned and separated.
3. Add seasoning (A) to the pork quickly and stir well.
4. Add tofu to the wok and seasoning (B), the white part of the spring onion and garlic, stir-fry gently for 1-2 minutes.
5. Add starch paste (corn/potato starch + water) and turn the heat to medium. Stir slowly until sauce thickens, and then chili oil and swirl gently.
6. Add grounded Sichuan pepper before transferring to a plate and sprinkle the green part of the spring onion as garnish.  Serve with steamed white rice.

1. Precooking tofu in water prevents tofu from breaking apart easily later.
2. I normally use silken tofu but this time I wanted to stick to the recipe and used cotton tofu instead.  Both Mr. Bear and I prefer the softer texture of the silken tofu.  If you also prefer your tofu soft and smooth, I recommend that you use silken tofu, but you have to be extremely careful when you stir-fry because silken tofu falls aparts very easily.

Let's take a look at other members' Mapo Tofu!

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