Ma Po Tofu

According to Wikipedia, in China this Sichuan classic is made “numbingly hot.” And, of course, it comes in a nearly endless number of variations. My version is an amalgamation of several recipes influenced by what happened to be in my pantry. I like mine moderately spicy but it would be equally good toned down for more delicate palates. The important thing is to cut the ingredients into small pieces or nearly the same size to give the final dish a uniform texture, almost like a very thick porridge.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. oil

2 scallions, white part chopped and green parts shredded, separated

1 Tbsp. Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and coarsely crushed

3 small dried red peppers, more or less to taste

1 carrots cut into small dice

2 medium or 4 small mushrooms (2 ounces) cut into small dice

1 Tbsp. Chinese black beans in oil

1 Tbsp. Chinese chili sauce or to taste

1 Tbsp. dark soy sauce

1 Tbsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 cup stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)

½ pound firm tofu cut into small dice

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Method 

Heat the oil a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the white parts of the green onion, Sichuan peppercorn, and the dried red peppers. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Stir in the carrots and mushrooms then the black beans, chili sauce, soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar. When everything is well combined pour in the stock and add the tofu, stirring gently so as not to break it up. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Mix the cornstarch with a bit of water to make a thick slurry and add to the wok. Raise the heat a little and stir until nicely thickened. Stir in the green parts of the scallions and serve over rice.

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