When I first received Sichuan peppercorn from my father-in-law, I didn’t know what to do. Until I met my husband, I had been cooking mapo doufu with toban djan and miso, and I thought I was doing it right. After meeting him, I was introduced to the whole new world of Chinese cooking, specifically, Sichuan dishes, and I was blown away. They were so good. Now I cannot make mapo doufu without Sichuan pepper. The glorious aroma of Sichuan peppercorn combined together with chili, garlic, ginger and toban djan makes the dish so flavorful. Over the year, I have also come up with a vegetarian option, which I make quite frequently these days. This is an arranged version of a recipe given from my father-in-law in Chengdu. I hope you will enjoy the recipe
Recipe: Mapo Doufu
- 1 package silken tofu, cut into 2.5cm or 1” cubes
- 1 tablespoon potato starch
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 dried chilli (Yidu), roughly chopped (you may increase the number if you like it really hot)
- 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons ginger, finely minced
- 2 tablespoons garlic, finely minced
- 200 grams or 7 oz. ground pork (alternatively, 1 big eggplant or 2 small eggplants for a vegetarian version)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons spicy bean sauce or toban djan (if using paste instead of sauce, mince before use to avoid eating a big chunk of beans)
- 1 teaspoon sweet bean sauce or tian mian jian
- Water or chicken broth (alternatively, shiitake mushroom infused water for a vegetarian version)
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan pepper powder (you can make this by roasting and grinding Sichuan peppercorns with pestal and mortar)
- 1 fresh green onion or fresh coriander, chopped for garnish
- Cut tofu into cubes and add boiled water. Alternatively, you may place some weight (heavy enough to pressure tofu, but light enough to retain tofu shape) on uncut tofu and cut into cubes later. This stage is necessary to squeeze out excess water out from tofu.
- Mix potato starch with 2 tablespoons of water. Leave it aside.
- Heat your wok or a frying pan on low, and add the oil.
- Throw in the chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, and stir gently. This is to make Sichuan pepper infused chili oil.
- Once you start to smell its glorious aroma, add the ginger and the garlic respectively. The smell of chili oil could be strong so please avoid inhaling too close and make sure the fan is turned on.
- After stirring for a couple of times, turn up the heat and add the ground pork. Fry until it’s cooked through. (I often replace pork with eggplants to make a vegetarian version.)
- Add the chili bean sauce (toban djan) and sweet bean sauce (tian mian jian) to the mixture and stir well.
- Add 2/3 cups of water or chicken broth to the wok and stir. (For a vegetarian version I use dried shiitake infused water and add sliced reconstituted shiitake mushroom at this stage)
- Once it starts boiling, add the soy sauce and stir. Let it simmer for no more than 3 minutes. Taste a little bit and see if it’s desirable to your taste and adjust the sauce to your liking. Some people add a pinch of sugar.
- Then add tofu cubes. When it starts boiling again, add the potato starch mixture and stir gently. Try not to break tofu.
- The sauce will start to thicken as its temperature rises. Let everything cook for no more than 5 minutes. Then add Sichuan pepper powder and garnish with green onion or fresh coriander.
- Serve hot with white or mixed grain rice!
This article was written by Chia.
I’m a freelance translator with background in biology. Upon meeting my future husband in Spain, I moved to Hong Kong to start our lives together. I’m still exploring what Hong Kong has got to offer