Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Now that it's chillier out (70 degrees and sunny with a light breeze is sweater weather here in New Orleans), it's time for a spicy recipe! I asked my grandmother the secrets on making mapo tofu. It's something that I don't necessarily order because it's so common, but also because it's hard to get the right authentic Sichuan taste down. My grandmother is from Hunan, which also prides itself in eating spicy food 24/7, so she knows the ins and outs. 

One of the main things I didn't know about mapo tofu is that traditionally, it is made with beef. I always thought it was ground pork. Also, the sichuan spice is made from two different peppers: heaving facing (Sichuan) pepper and Sichuan peppercorn. The former provides the spice and the latter delivers the distinct numbing factor. 

Recently I also made this recipe for my vegetarian friend, Henok, that's Ethiopian and can handle his spice. He accidentally bit into a pepper, and it was a bad idea. Anyways, for the vegetarian version, I instead of beef I used fresh shiitake mushrooms. 

In the photo above, I made the mapo tofu with ground beef I got from Lilac Hedge Farm's meat CSA. Dare to be adventurous with your ground beef. Anyways, hope you enjoy one of my go-to recipes. And be very careful with how many peppers you throw in! 

Mapo Tofu (serves 3-4)
1 tbs canola oil
5 cloves garlic
3 sprigs scallion, diced (separate the tops and the ends) 
2 tbs spicy soy bean paste
1 pack tofu, firm
1/2 lb ground beef, marinated* or shiitake mushrooms (OR both??)
6-8 heaven facing peppers
1/3 tsp Sichuan peppercorn, crushed
1/2 tsp sesame oil

1. In a deep pan, heat oil with garlic, scallion ends, and heaven facing peppers on high heat. 
2. Once garlic and scallions are browned (make sure the peppers don't turn a dark brown), add spicy soy bean paste and mix well.
3. Stir in the ground beef (or mushrooms). 
4. Once about 70% cooked, add in the tofu and simmer on low heat with lid ajar for 15 min to an hour.  
5. 5 minutes before serving, stir in the crushed peppercorn, sesame oil, and chopped scallion tops. 

*Beef marinade:
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs dark soy sauce
1/4 cup shaoxing rice wine
1/4 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sesame oil

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