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Mapo Tofu


This past week at my new job was really fun. Learning about couponing is so fascinating to me, and the cool co-workers and catered lunches are also helping me adjust :). The one minor downside is that I have a longer commute — just a teeny one, but still, working 11 minutes away from home for the past 3 years has spoiled me. I’m finding it harder and harder to make time to cook during the week, so now I’m on a quest to find recipes that are quick and easy, and of course, really tasty. I recently discovered the blog Not Quite Nigella and when I saw this mapo tofu recipe, I knew I would like it. It looked salty and spicy and aromatic. And when I saw that it cooks up super quick, I knew I had to try it.

The tricky part is finding all the ingredients at your local Chinese supermarket. I couldn’t find the fermented black beans to save my life and had to ask a nice looking man who passed by (I know, I’m that person), but luckily, he knew exactly what I was talking about. It was a good thing, too, because I never would have found them on my own. Anyway, aside from getting all the ingredients together, there’s very little prep work involved, and the end result is a Chinese restaurant quality dish. I also like how this recipe can be made vegetarian by leaving out the pork and swapping out the chicken broth for vegetable broth. I’m sure it would taste just as good.
Do you have any recipes for quick dinners during the week? I’d love your recommendations!

{fermented black beans}
Iron Chef Chen’s Mapo Tofu
Slightly adapted from NotQuiteNigella.com
Serves 2-3
• 14 oz. regular tofu (not silken)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 4 oz. minced pork
• 1/2 cup green garlic chives, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
For spicy bean paste:
• 1 tablespoon Chinese chili bean sauce (or toubanjan or doubanjiang)
• 1 tablespoons Chinese ground bean sauce (tenmienjan, tenmenjan ir tenmenjiang)
• 2 teaspoons fermented black beans, chopped finely
• 1 dried chilli, chopped finely (or 1/2 – 1/2 teaspoon ichimi togarashi pepper) I used togarashi pepper.
For stock mixture:
• 1 teaspoon chili oil
• 3/4 cup chicken stock
• 1 tablespoon sake or 1 teaspoon dry sherry (I didn’t have any and so left this out.)
• 1 teaspoon soy sauce
To finish:
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 1.5 tablespoons cornflour/cornstarch mixed with 1.5 tablespoons cold water
• 1 tablespoon szechuan pepper (optional) I left this out and the dish still had a nice kick to it.
• Boiled white rice to serve (I used brown. I know. But those catered lunches — they’re killing me!)
Buyer’s tip: The Chinese chilli bean sauce, ground bean sauce and fermented black beans can be found at Asian grocery stores.
1. Cut tofu into cubes-the recipes says 1 inch cubes. Heat a saucepan of water and add the salt and tofu pieces gently. Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to medium high for 8-10 minutes and then remove from heat and drain gently.
2. While the tofu is cooking, in a small bowl mix the chili bean sauce, ground bean sauce, chopped fermented black beans and dried chili and set aside. In a jug measure the stock, chili oil, sake or sherry and soy sauce and set aside. Then in a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water and set aside.
3. When the tofu is done, heat a wok on high and add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the pork and brown, stirring carefully to separate. Then add the spicy bean paste above cooking for 1 minute.
4. Then add the stock mixture as well as the tofu pieces. Stir fry very gently for 1-2 minutes.
5. Take the wok off the heat and cool for a minute so that the sauce isn’t bubbling. Add in the chives. Add the cornstarch and stir very gently. Drizzle with sesame oil and serve with Szechuan pepper if desired. Serve over white rice (or brown rice if your waistline is getting upset about all the Pop Tarts you’ve been eating.)

Last modified: January 10, 2019