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Má Là Dòufǔ (麻辣豆腐 - Tingly-Hot Tofu)

This Sichuan dish is popular throughout China for a variety of reasons. The dish is savory, inexpensive, relatively quick to make, and mingles the vitality of Chinese hot peppers (la jiao) and the unique tingly flavor of the sichuan peppercorn powder. Typical to Chinese culture, the dish is rarely served the same in two places, although tofu, hot pepper, and sichuan peppercorn are irreplacable constituents. Some recipes call for mushrooms, minced cloves of garlic, sesame seeds, red onions or black pepper. Here is one rendition:

Ingredients:

  • 2 chunks (about 1/2 a kilo) Southern-style tofu (firm Chinese tofu)
  • 100g lean beef or pork
  • 50g garlic shoots (garlic scape, 蒜苔)
  • 100g vegetable oil (something with a high burn temperature)
  • 50g spicy bean paste (豆瓣酱)
  • 8g chili powder (辣椒粉)
  • 8g soy sauce
  • 20g cooking wine (料酒)
  • 20g salted sichuan black beans
  • 20g starch
  • 15g broth
  • 1g sichuan peppercorn powder (花椒粉)
  • 10g green onion
  • 10g ginger

Preparation:

Coarsely mince the beef. Finely mince beans together with the green onion and ginger. Cut the garlic shoots into short lengths (.75 cm). Cut the tofu into 1.5cm cubes and soak them for 1-2 minutes in boiling water.

Cooking:

Heat the vegetable oil and add the meat, stir-frying until the water has been cooked out of the meat. Add the bean paste, onion, ginger, together with the black bean paste, stirring until well-mixed. Add the chili powder and broth, mixing until the soup takes on an orange color. Add the cooking wine and soy sauce and tofu and cook for 1-2 minutes until the alcohol boils out of the wine. Reduce heat and add the minced garlic shoots. Finally, stir in the sichuan peppercorn powder. Serve over rice!


Note: The sichuan peppercorn has been difficult to come by in some countries for quite some time due to a canker that commonly inhabits the spice. Lately, export has become possible to places like the United States if the exporter carefully bakes the corns to kill any of the dangerous animals inside. If you are using pre-baked sichuan peppercorn, you may want to use as much as twice as much of it to attain the same level of flavor.

Note: The sichuan peppercorn (or prickly ash) is noded as szechwan pepper, however, I feel that this is a misnomer. It is sometimes called szechuan peppercorn, however the term szechuan pepper (or, to adhere to modern transliteration standards, sichuan pepper), should be reserved for the hot peppers which come from the same region, as this is how they are known (and known well) in China.

Have a Chinese recipe you can't quite find? Give me a shout and I'll see what I can do.


References:

  1. 绿色健康食尚生活丛书:四川菜. ISBN 7-104-02161-2

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