Mapo Tofu (Pork mince with tofu in spicy sauce)


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For Chinese, this is a traditional dish most families would have at home. In northern China, Szechuan peppercorns would be added to give a unique spiciness that is at best described as a slight tingling sensation, to the more severe as ‘spins and needles’ on the tongue which means you can taste nothing for the next 5 minutes until the numbing feeling subsides.
In Hong Kong, we have milder, sweeter versions.

It wasn’t until a European friend pointed it out to me that I realised how strange this dish is – two proteins in the same dish! I don’t think I’ve ever looked at tofu as a protein and consequently consider why would there be a need to pair it with another (pork mince)?

I have no explanation except that the tofu is there to mix with the sauce and then with the rice as a perfect, wholesome, one plate meal. It just works so let’s not worry about it 🙂

Most recipes ask you to ‘parboil’ the tofu pieces before adding them into the wok. They claim this helps prevent them from breaking up. I have never done that and I’ve cooked this dish for almost 20 years!
What I’ve always done, is sprinkle salt onto the cubed tofu and letting it sit for 10 minutes. This pushes out the water from the tofu and keeps the cubes intact – it works every time. The key to it is in the manner of mixing –  mix the tofu in ever so gently and only till it’s warmed through. No tofu puddle mess at all.

Ingredients:
1 ‘brick’ of firm tofu, cubed
1 teaspoon salt
150g mince pork (or less if preferred)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chinese garlic chili bean sauce (toubanjan or doubanjiang)
1 tablespoon chinese brown bean sauce (tenmienjan, tenmenjan, or tenmenjiang)
1 tablespoon chinese hoisin sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 spring onion, chopped into small rounds

Marinade:
1 tablespoon dry sherry or Chinese wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorn (optional)

Directions:
1.  Slice your tofu into 3 sections and then cut into long strips. Cube them into 1.5cm sizes.  Sprinkle salt on the top of the tofu. Set aside. (They don’t have to be perfect so don’t worry about being precise here.) Marinate mince.

2.  Set the wok on high and make sure it is hot.  Add vegetable oil and swirl the pan, then add the mince pork, using the back of your spatula to separate the mince.

3.  When the pork is nicely browned, add in your equal portion of the 3 main sauces: Chinese garlic chili bean sauce, Chinese brown bean sauce and hoisin sauce. Continue to cook for 1 minute.

4. Drain the tofu pieces and add tofu cubes to the wok.
5. Working quickly and lightly, mix the tofu in with the mince. A bit like working an angel cake batter, you scoop from the outside and bring it into the middle.
6. Continue until all the tofu has been mixed with the sauce.
7. Add in chicken stock and thicken with cornflour slurry if you preferring a thicker sauce. Add in your chopped spring onion.
8.  Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Note: if you are making a bigger portion, you will need to proportionately increase the sauces, maintaining the 1:1:1 ratio.

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