Monday Meal: Ma-po Tofu | Buzz Blog

Monday Meal: Ma-po Tofu

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Ever since I encountered it years ago in New York's Chinatown, ma po tofu (or "homestyle" tofu) has been one of my favorite Szechuan dishes. This version, if I do say so myself, is better than you'll find in most local Chinese restaurants. It's also fairly simple to make. It's really just a matter of getting all your ingredients lined up — what professional chefs call mise en place. Organization is always important in the kitchen.

Ingredients: 

1 package (1 lb.) firm or extra-firm tofu

1/4 lb. ground pork (you could also use beef or even ground turkey)

2 tbsp. hot bean sauce (available at Asian markets)

1 tsp. minced ginger

1 14-oz. can chicken broth

2 tbsp. cooking oil (peanut, vegetable or canola)

1/2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. rice wine

1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 tbsp. cornstarch

2-3 minced scallions

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Method: 

Drain and pat dry the tofu to get rid of excess water. I let the tofu sit on paper towels for a half-hour or so before using.

Dice the tofu into approximately 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

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Place the hot bean paste and minced ginger in a small bowl or ramekin.

In another small bowl or ramekin, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil and pepper.

In a third bowl or ramekin, make cornstarch paste using equal parts cornstarch and water (1 tbsp. each)

Heat the cooking oil in a wok or deep skillet over medium-high heat.

When the oil is hot, add the pork, bean paste and ginger. Quickly stir-fry until the pork until just browned.

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Add the chicken stock and tofu and stir well.

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Add the soy sauce/sesame oil, rice wine, pepper mixture to the wok and stir.

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Simmer the mixture over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated - about 15-20 minutes.

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Add the cornstarch paste to the wok and stir thoroughly to incorporate. If the sauce is too thin, add more cornstarch paste. The sauce should be gravy-like, not soupy.

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Remove from the heat and toss in the minced scallions.

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Serve with steamed rice. 

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Photos by Ted Scheffler

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