Mapo Tofu, When Low-Brow Just Hits the Spot
"If I know I'm going to be watching something classy like a nature documentary while I eat it, I may decide to fancy it up by adding sliced scallions and wearing pants."
I'm a mapo tofu fiend. It's easily my last-meal dish, particularly when it's the real deal—packed with mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns brooding under a slick of red hot chili oil. But just as sometimes you're willing to give up the microbrew in exchange for an ice cold tall boy of flavorless-in-a-good-way PBR, there are times when I get a craving for heat-n-serve Japanese-style mapo tofu from a pack.
I grew up eating my mom's mapo tofu—which bears only a passing resemblance to the Sichuan classic—and it was amongst my favorite meals. Along with her dumplings, I could pack away quarts of the stuff. With its gloppy sauce (we called it "mapo gorp"), lack of heat, and strong kick of ginger it was much more similar to the Japanese heat-n-serve variety, which probably explains my predilection for the latter.
The instructions couldn't be easier: brown a bit of meat (pork or beef) in some oil, add the pouch of sauce and a cubed block of tofu, heat, and serve. Normally I'll scarf it down as is, perhaps with a little white rice. If I know I'm going to be watching something classy like a nature documentary while I eat it, I may decide to fancy it up by adding sliced scallions and wearing pants.
Like I said, even the hottest version available is not hot in the slightest, but it's delicious nonetheless.
Tell me, SE'rs, can you think of any other foods that despite knowing how good the real deal can be, you still find yourself craving the low-brow version of it once in a while?
Others for me:
- Mac and cheese
- McDonald's Hash Browns
How about you?