Our new is favourite cookbook is “Hong Kong Food City” by Tony Tan. We purchased it on a whim from a bookstore while on holiday in the beautiful little town of Kiama, about 2 hours south of Sydney. If there’s anything better than finding a gem of a book while on holiday, it’s making delicious food that demands to be made again and again. So far we’ve made 4 dishes from this book and would make any of them again. But first there are many more recipes we want to try.
Today we’re bringing you the best dish from the book so far, Mapo Tofu. This has long been one of our favourite dishes to order when eating out, so being able to create a beautiful version at home is exciting and much simpler than we had thought. We love the silkiness of the tofu, the zing of the Sichuan pepper, and the depth of flavour in the sauce. It’s spicy, but not so hot that you you’ll be crying.
The traditional Mapo Tofu recipe uses beef mince, but if you want to make the dish vegetarian, you can substitute some finely diced mushrooms, and replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Both versions work really well.
A note on a few ingredients you may be unfamiliar with: Doubanjiang or Chilli bean paste from Sichuan can be hard to find, but the Lee Kum Kee brand works fine and is available in supermarkets. Fermented black beans can be found at Asian grocers. Sichuan preserved vegetable is made from the stems of mustard greens. We found it labelled as “preserved mustard greens” in our local supermarket.
This is a really simple dish to make, but we would recommend that you spend some time measuring out all your ingredients at the start. Once your wok is hot you’ll be adding all the ingredients very quickly and you don’t want to be measuring everything out at this point.
Serves 2 people as a main dish with some fluffy jasmine rice, or 4 people with the addition of another dish such as some simple stir fried green vegetables with oyster sauce.
- 50g minced beef (or finely diced mushrooms)
- 500g soft bean curd (or tofu), cut into 3cm cubes
- 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp Chilli bean paste(Doubanjiang)
- 2 tsp fermented black beans
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp chilli oil
- 250ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 baby leek, finely sliced
- 1 tsp roasted ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
- 30g Sichuan preserved vegetable, rinsed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp potato or corn flour, mixed with 2 Tbsp water
- Spring onions, finely sliced, to serve
- ½ tsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- Place the beef or mushrooms in a bowl and add the marinade ingredients. Mix well and set aside.
- Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer. Gently place the bean curd in the pan and cook until warmed through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Heat a wok over high heat, add the oil and then the beef or mushrooms. Stir fry for 20 seconds, then add the garlic.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the chilli bean paste, fermented black beans, soy sauce, sugar and chilli oil. Stir fry for another 30 seconds.
- Pour in the stock, add the bean curd and stir gently so as not to break the bean curd cubes. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Add the leek, Sichuan pepper, chilli flakes (if using), Sichuan preserved vegetable and potato flour mixture. Stir and simmer until the sauce thickens.
- Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with spring onions. Serve with steamed rice.