How can we miss this recipe for so long? Mapo tofu is such a popular dish that you can order it in most Chinese restaurants. It is simple in preparation, gives a bursting and mouth-numbing flavor with tender texture. For the newbies in the kitchen, this dish will give you an idea how some quick-sauce are made in Chinese cuisine.
Commonly restaurants make it with a lot of oil. Actually it doesn’t need that much to be delicious, especially when we eat at home. This recipe uses 2 tbsp of oil and still tastes pretty authentic. It is a very spicy version though, but the hot level can be adjusted downwards by reducing the amount of red chili or choosing a less spicier Doubanjiang(chili bean paste). Give this a go and tweak it to suit your taste!
A few tips:
1. Choose the right type of tofu. Soft and silky tofu is the best choice, but not the softest one that easily breaks when you cut it into pieces. During cooking, don’t stir-fry or even stir the tofu, simply cook them in the sauce.
2. Doubanjiang is a fermented broad bean paste, used particularly in Sichuan cuisine. It has a reddish-brown color with a uniquely deep and complex umami profile. It’s usually spicy and quite salty. You may want to taste it before adding more salt into the dish.
3. Sichuan pepper(huaqiao) originates from Sichuan province, has a unique aroma, and brings a tingly numbness on the tongue. It’s often added together with chili peppers to create a flavor called “mala” in Chinese(numbing and spicy). It’s different from other types of peppers, so there is no substitution for it.
4. Thicken the sauce with corn starch. Combine corn starch with cold water to make a slurry. Thicken the sauce until it can cling on to the surface of the tofu. This step is definitely the finishing touch!
400g soft tofu, cut in small cubes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 pieces ginger, finely chopped
1 red chili, chopped
1 tsp Sichuan peppers, toasted in a pan and then ground
1 tbsp Doubanjiang
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water to form a slurry
several spring onions, sliced for garnish
1. Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan, on high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and spring onion stalks. Stir-fry for 1 minute.
2. Add Doubanjiang, red chili and soy sauce, combine well, keep stir-frying until aromatic.
3. Pour in 1 cup of cold water. When it’s boiling, add the tofu carefully. Cook over low heat for five minutes. Let them absorb the flavor of the seasonings. Adjust the amount of water to roughly cover the tofu.
4. Add corn starch slurry to the pan spoon by spoon, until the sauce is thick enough.