Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

The characteristic flavor of this famous dish comes from Sichuan peppercorns which, despite their name, are unrelated to either black pepper or chilies. They have a slightly numbing effect on the palate known as mala that in Sichuan cuisine balances the heat from the chilies. Many versions of this dish include ground pork however I have chosen to use instead a bit of the crispy duck skin left over from rendering duck fat. If you prefer a vegetarian meal, just leave them out.

Ingredients

 

Light soy sauce

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Sesame oil

1 teaspoon

5 milliliters

Water

as needed

as needed

Oil

1 tablespoon

15 milliliters

Garlic, minced

3 cloves

3 cloves

Dried fermented black beans

1 tablespoon

15 milliliters

Rendered duck skin, chopped

½ ounce (2 tablespoons)

15 grams

Chili soy bean paste

1 tablespoon

15 milliliters

Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 tablespoon

15 milliliters

Ground Sichuan peppercorn

1 teaspoon (or more)

5 milliliters (or more)

Chili powder

½ teaspoon (to taste)

3 milliliters (to taste)

Chinese firm tofu, cubed

6 ounces

170 grams

Cornstarch

1 tablespoon

15 milliliters

Method

Mix the soy sauce and sesame oil into ½ cup (125 ml) of water and set aside.

Heat oil in a wok then stir fry garlic and fermented black beans until fragrant. Add the duck skin and cook until crispy. Mix in the chili soy bean paste. Add the rice wine and let the alcohol evaporate for a few seconds then stir in the soy sauce mixture, the ground Sichuan peppercorns, and chili powder to taste. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low.

Put the tofu cubes into the sauce being careful not to break them up. Simmer for about 3 minutes or until warm through. Stir the corn starch into a bit of water to form a paste. Use the paste to thicken the liquid in the wok to your taste.

Serve hot with steamed white rice.

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