Grandma’s spicy tofu with pork (Ma Po Tofu)

This is one of my favourite comfort food dishes. I have tried making this with the instant ‘Ma Po tofu sauce’ that comes in a jar but it just tasted terrible. And gave me a MSG thirst to boot.

So I bit the bullet, and made it from scratch according to Charmaine Solomon’s Encyclopedia of Asian Food.

AsiaSociety took the trouble of providing an electronic copy of the recipe.

Grandma’s Spicy Tofu with Pork (serves 4)
#600 g firm bean curd
#500g pork mince
2 tablespoons peanut oil
3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions (scallions)
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
#2 tablespoon ground bean sauce (mor sze jeung)
#2 teaspoon chilli bean paste
#6 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
[for this one I used Capibu Jari Jempol Sambal Asli chilli sauce and and a bit of tomato sauce]
#2 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 & 1/3 cups water
2 teaspoons fermented bean curd, mashed*
2 teaspoons cornflour
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chilli oil or sesame oil
(optional) diced ‘instant’ jellyfish or kelp seaweeds
Cooked Rice/quinoa/pearl barley to serve.

Where I have indicated an ingredient quantity with a hash mark (#), I have increased the quantities from the original recipe. Generally, I have doubled the sauce ingredients. I like this dish with a bit of sauce which you mop up with rice.

For the tofu, I used a combination of 200g fresh silken tofu, and ‘297g’ of uht packet firm tofu.

What irks me about Charmaine’s book is that the ‘Chinese’ pronunciation given is generally of the Cantonese language. Cantonese doesn’t really have an official method of translating the sounds into english, unlike mandarin. Providing the Chinese characters would brook no argument.

So here is a photo of the unusual ingredients that I used:

Spicy tofu ingredients

From left to right we have.
1. Mei3 Wei4 huang2 jiang4, (literally “delicacy yellow soybean paste”).
2. (top) instant natural sea vegetable fresh kelp.
3. (bottom) long life UHT firm tofu.
4. preserved beancurd

The fermented bean curd I bought after I tried to replicate the vegetable dish from Red Lantern, using water spinach (kang kong).

Directions
1. Cut tofu into 2 cm chunks and drop into a pan of boiling water until heated through, about 4 minutes. Drain in a colander.
2. Heat peanut oil in a wok and on a low heat fry spring onion for a few seconds before adding garlic and ginger. Stir and fry over low heat until fragrant and starting to turn golden.
3. Add pork and break up into small clumps until cooked.
4. Add chilli bean paste, soy sauce, chilli sauce, bean paste and mashed red bean curd mixed with 1& 1/3 cup stock or water.
5.Stir until boiling, then mix in cornflour stirred with cold water and stir until sauce boils and thickens.
6. (optional) cut up your crunchy pickles, jellyfish or kelp and stir through.
7.Add tofu and heat gently in the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame oil and serve on steamed carbs of your choice.

* Red bean curd is the Chinese equivalent of ripe gorgonzola cheese.

I added one chopped up fresh red chilli at step 4 to add some colour. When I lifted the lid off the frypan just before step 5, it smelled just right. Ah. Satisfaction.

I added the kelp at step 6 for texture. Sometimes when eating this in restaurants, you get the sour crunch of pickles, which I quite like.

Ma Po Tofu

Delicious. Noms. I went back for seconds. And ate the leftovers for lunch.

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