Mapo Tofu kind of perfectly sums up what I love about Sichuan cuisine. It's feisty and slightly out of control, and yet it still feels homey and relaxed. Sure, the chili bean paste adds a wallop of heat, and the Sichuan peppercorns numb the inside of your mouth, but it's not overly greasy or heavy. It's meaty, but as much of the umami punch comes form the fermented black beans as the ground pork.
This recipe comes from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, and she really hit the necessary balance here. Much of that help has to go to the tofu, which are the shock absorbers for this dish. They remain white and silky at the end, and help cool the fire of the sauce.
The whole dish comes out surprisingly quickly, and without the usual theatrics of stir-frying. The heat is high only for the first step, then it's turned down to medium. If you're looking for a good look into this style of cooking, this might be a great first step.
- 1 pound soft tofu, drained and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 leeks, thinly sliced, thick green parts discarded
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans
- 2 teaspoons Sichuan pepper, ground
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons white sugar
- 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water
- 1 tablespoon scallions, sliced
Pour the oil into a large work set over high heat. Dump in the pork, and stir-fry until the meat is no longer pink. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and leeks. Cook until they are fragrant and the less are soft. Add the chili bean paste, black beans, and Sichuan pepper. Stir well, and cook for 1 minute.