Why It Works
- Standing in for silken tofu, creamy and flavorful cooked-from-dry beans and their cooking liquid give this quick stew body and complement the assertive punch of chile-bean paste and Sichuan peppercorns.
- Reserving some of the chile oil for drizzling over the beans at the end allows you to adjust the heat level of the dish based on your personal preferences.
With a lot of people stocked up on dried beans, we've been working on a number of recipes to put a batch o' beans to good use. Of course, nicely cooked beans are delicious on their own with a drizzle of peppery olive oil and a hunk of crusty bread for dipping. But with every day feeling just like the last right now, introducing some variety at meal times without creating a ton of extra prep work in the kitchen feels more important than ever. Enter, mapo tofu-style white beans.
Standing in for silken tofu, creamy white beans and their flavor-packed cooking liquid complement the signature spicy, buzzy, and funky punch of doubanjiang (Chinese broad bean-chile paste), dried chiles, and Sichuan peppercorns used in Sichuanese mapo tofu. A small amount of ground meat (both pork or beef work for this dish) gives the stew savory richness without putting a big dent in your wallet, while aromatic garlic, ginger, and scallions (or ramps, while they're in season) provide brightness and warm depth of flavor. To more easily calibrate the heat levels in the dish, we reserve half of the chile-spiked oil that is made at the beginning of the recipe for the end, so that people can doctor spiciness to their liking for their individual bowls of beans.
By taking a component construction approach to meal-planning, and cooking a big pot of beans ahead of time, you can then put together quick-cooking dishes like these mapo beans, double-bean mazemen, or our pasta with beans and greens. And we've got more beanspiration coming soon, so stay tuned.
- 1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil, divided
- 4 ounces (115g) ground pork or beef
- 1 tablespoon (17g) doubanjiang (Chinese fermented broad bean-chile paste; see note)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (2g) finely ground dried Chinese chiles (see note)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, finely grated or minced (about 2 teaspoons; 10g)
- One 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or minced (about 2 teaspoons; 12g)
- 4 scallions or 12 ramps (about 2 ounces; 55g), white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3/4 cup (180ml) water
- 2 cups (565g) cooked dry white beans (such as cannellini or Great Northern) with cooking liquid (see note)
- 1 teaspoon (2g) Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground (see note)
In a large saucepan or wok, heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add ground meat and cook, breaking up meat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or wok spatula, until meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a small bowl or plate and set aside.
Lower heat to medium, add remaining 3 tablespoons (45ml) oil to now-empty saucepan or wok, and heat until shimmering. Add doubanjiang and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add ground chiles and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is aromatic and chiles have stained the oil dark red, about 30 seconds. Transfer 2 tablespoons (30ml) chile-oil mixture to a small heatproof ramekin or bowl and set aside.
Add garlic, ginger, and scallion or ramp whites and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is very aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in water, beans and their cooking liquid, and cooked meat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to maintain a steady but gentle simmer and cook until mixture is thickened slightly and heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Add scallion or ramp greens, stir to incorporate, and cook until just softened, about 30 seconds.
Divide stew between individual serving bowls, sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorns, and serve, passing reserved chile oil for drizzling at the table.
Large saucepan or wok
Doubanjiang can also be labeled as "toban djan" or "chile bean paste." It can be found at Chinese markets, some well-stocked grocery stores, and online (we're big fans of the Sichuan ingredients sold by The Mala Market, but you can also buy it on Amazon). Look for Pixian doubanjiang. Lee Kum Kee brand is more widely available at supermarkets.
Like doubanjiang, dried Chinese chiles can be found at Chinese markets or online. These chiles are on the milder side. If you can't source them, you can substitute with other types of dried ground chiles (understanding that the flavor won't be exactly the same and that you may need to adjust quantities due to variance in spiciness). Mild, fruity dried ground chiles like Korean gochugaru make for a better substitute than something like cayenne.
This recipe was tested with low-sodium canned white beans, and unfortunately they do not make an adequate substitute for cooked dried beans in this dish, even when the water in the recipe is substituted with a more flavorful liquid like chicken or vegetable stock. The superior flavor of dried beans and their cooking liquid, and the thickening power of the bean cooking liquid are essential to this recipe. The cooked beans are not drained of their cooking liquid, so the bean cooking liquid is incorporated into the measurement of 2 cups (565g) of cooked beans.
Sichuan peppercorns are not related to black pepper or chiles, but are dried husks that surround the seeds of a shrub from the citrus family. They can be found at Chinese markets or online. Sichuan peppercorns should have a heady, fruity aroma, and should give your mouth a buzzing, tingly sensation when you chew on them.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Mapo-style white beans and the reserved chile oil can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 3 days.