Whenever some of my friends drag me to a new Chinese restaurant they have discovered that isn't actually run by Cantonese people, I usually order this dish. If they do it well, the place has promise. If not, not. Often, alas, not.
Originally published here:
麻婆豆腐 MA PO TOFU
One block firm tofu (14 oz).
1/4 lb ground meat.
2 TBS chili paste.
2 TBS Szechuan hot bean paste.
2 TBS regular oil.
1 TBS chili oil.
½ TBS Szechuan peppercorns, roasted and finely ground .
½ Tsp fermented black beans, soaked and mashed.
2 scallions, cut to 2 inch lengths.
2 gloves garlic, chopped.
½ TBS soy sauce.
Quarter cup stock and a jigger of sherry.
Pinch of sugar, pinch of cornstarch - blended in a little hot water.
Cut tofu into chunks, blanch in gently boiling water, drain. Sauté the ground meat, garlic, and spicy bean paste in the two oils till the meat is no longer pink. Add the chili paste, dao see, and soy sauce, stir around to mix everything, then add the tofu, stock, and sherry. Cook, gently stirring (to prevent the tofu breaking up) for a few minutes, then add the fa-chiew, scallions, and the pinches of sugar and cornstarch which have been blended in a little hot water. Stir a little longer and plate it.
Szechuan hot bean paste: laat dou fan jeung (辣豆瓣酱). Also called 'Toban Jiang', or 'Toban Sauce'. Laat (辣) means hot. Buy hot.
Szechuan peppercorns: fa-chiew (花椒),alternative name: san-chiew (山椒). Chiew (椒) means pepper.
Fermented black beans: dou-see (豆豉).