Chinese called this Mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐, loosely translated in English as 'pockmarked woman tofu'. Several legends all slightly different telling the story how this dish was developed. The story I read said at the end of Ching Dynasty, in Chengdu (Sichuan) by the Wan Fu bridge, a pockmarked woman took over her husband restaurant after he died. There were few street traders who frequently ate in that restaurant always bring in some beef and had the lady to cook something for them. The lady concocted a lovely spicy sauce to flavour meat and tofu which had become very famous till today.
Recipe will serve 4
400 - 500g (about 1 box) chinese tofu from chinese supermarket from the chiller cabinet soaked in water
200 - 250g of minced beef or pork
2 tbsp of cooking oil
2 fat clove of garlic, chopped
1.5 - 2.5 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (I normally use this brand and about 2.5 tbsp, I like it spicy)
0.5 to 1 tbsp dried fermented black bean or yellow bean sauce, roughly minced with spoon(most people like black beans, I like yellow beans)
1 medium mild chilli, chopped (optional if you like it spicy)
1 tsp dark soy sauce
0.5 to 1 tbsp oyster sauce (optional, not authentic but I find it tastes very nice with this dish)
1 tsp of sugar
good pinch of freshly ground pepper
0.5 cup chicken stock or water
1 heap tsp of cornflour mixed with a little water
2 stalks of spring onions, chopped
2 - 3 tsp of chilli oil or sesame oil
a little roasted and ground sichuan pepper (optional)
Extra chopped spring onion and fresh chilli for garnish.
- Heat oil in wok add garlic, stir for 10 -15 sec, add the chilli bean paste and yellow bean paste (or black beans) stir till fragrant, add mince, stir till browned then add soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, ground pepper, stock and chopped chilli (optional).
- Cut tofu into chunks, add to meat sauce, stir gently and simmer till hot. Add cornflour, when thickened add chopped spring onions. Sprinkle on chilli oil or sesame oil but don't stir. Transfer onto serving dish, sprinkle with Sichuan pepper if like.
- Sprinkle with more spring onion and fresh chilli.
For a vegetarian version, sub beef with chopped shitake (handful after soaked) and some chinese preserved vegetable like this. If you use zha cai either soaked to reduce the saltiness or reduce some of the sauce.