Ma Po Tofu (Authentic)

This is a more authentic version of Ma Po Tofu. I finally bit the bullet and got a Chinese cook book. I did modify this to make it 1 less greasy and 2) less spicy (I was serving this for guests). If you want it to be spicier add either a hot pepper sauce or more Chili oil.

This is the best home-made version I have ever had and is better than all but 2 restaurant versions. It is also the least greasy of all versions but still delivers a lot of flavor. Next time, if I make it just for myself I will use a hot fermented black bean sauce which should add even more depth of flavor and will add more heat. The only other thing I would change is to use a slightly firmer tofu. I used a soft, non-silken, tofu here but will try using a medium or firm next time. The following recipe makes a medium hot version. If you want less heat you can omit the chili sauce and lower the chili oil and sub some other cooking oil.

This version of Ma Po Tofu utilizes Sichuan Peppercorn oil. It adds a very unique taste and aroma. You can still make a good dish without it but you may feel like it is missing something if you’ve had authentic restaurant versions. Sichuan Peppercorns are a secret ingredient that helps add an authentic taste to many Chinese spicy foods. Unlike chili peppers which add a heat that builds on the tongue, Sichuan peppercorns provide a numbing flavor which the Chinese call “ma”. If you have been lucky enough to have authentic Sichuan cuisine you will recognize the trademark “tingly crawly” sensation on the tongue and lips that it imparts.

You will probably not be able to find Sichuan Peppercorn oil in stores, but all Chinese stores and many Asian markets will carry the peppercorns. I know Uwajimaya has it in stock in their Chinese spice section. I have a recipe for making both Asian Chili Oil and Sichuan Peppercorn oil below, just follow the links.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 block tofu (soft, medium, or firm depending on preference)
  2. 1.5 Tbs chili oil (you can use store bought or use this recipe:http://cookingforthogg.livejournal.com/15812.html )
  3. 1 Tbs Sichuan peppercorn oil (recipe here:http://cookingforthogg.livejournal.com/15988.html)
  4. 1 heaped tsp chili sauce (Sriracha if you like garlic or another if you don’t)
  5. 2 cloves of garlic – minced
  6. 4-6 oz lean ground pork
  7. 1.5 Tbs black bean sauce (you can find this at most asian markets)
  8. 1 stalk of green onion

For the Sauce:

  1. 1 Tbs soy sauce
  2. 1 tsp chili powder
  3. 1/2 cup water
  4. 1 Tbs corn starch (more or less depending on how thick you want the sauce)

Directions:

  1. Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and set aside. If you aren’t sure how much corn starch to use to get it to the correct thickness try starting with half the recommended amount. Add more corn starch to a small amount of water at the end of cooking to thicken it to desired consistency if you still want it thicker.
  2. Cut the tofu into small bit-sized cubes. Set aside and let drain. Rinse the green onion and slice off the root and discard it. Slice the whiter portions of the stalk into very thin slices. The green area can be sliced thicker and on a diagonal. Separate them into two piles and set aside.
  3. In a large wok or pan, heat the chili oil, sichuan oil and/or cooking oil (if using) over high heat. Add the garlic and fry to a light brown before adding the pork. Use chopsticks or a cooking spoon break the meat up into small pieces and cook until it is about 1/2 cooked (still pink in spots). Add the white part of the green onion, the black bean sauce and stir until everything is aromatic.
  4. Stir in the sauce mix and tofu, be gentle from here out so you don’t break the tofu. Lower the heat and simmer for another 3-5 minutes or until the pork is cooked through. Take the pan/wok off the heat and stir in the green part of the onion. Serve immediately over steamed rice.
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