Week of Delicious Meals, Part IV: Mapo tofu

I got a lunch break in between a 16-hour shift for a fundraising gala. In between putting on my make up and trying on and taking off multiple cocktail dresses, I made some of this deliciousness to cope with the oncoming stress.

People who know me know that I try to be super resourceful with food. So you will not want to do as I did, and use a seriously old soft tofu block from 2 roommates ago. I refuse to be shamed! I cooked it, ate it, and it was delicious.

N., I’m sorry I used your tofu.

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Mapo tofu is mind-boggling easy to make. I don’t really care for making things 100% authentic so I messed around with the recipes I found online and did whatever felt right.

To make mapo tofu, start by chopping an onion, a fingernail’s width of fresh ginger and 3 garlic cloves into tiny, tiny pieces. The tinier the better. Then saute the mixture in oil until softened and fragrant.

Meanwhile, take a pack of drained, silken tofu (not one that has been neglected in your fridge for months), and cube that into large chunks.

Give the pan a good stir, then add .75 pounds of either beef or pork. I used beef for my recipe. Let the meat cook thoroughly. As it does so, the meat will start sweating and releasing water. That’s ok.

Gently push the tofu chunks from your cutting board into the pan. Gently, because you don’t want your tofu to break up into unsightly odd pieces, even if it is old and decrepit by tofu-standards. If you’re a stickler, shake and flip the pan every once in a while to loosen the bits and mix things up.

Spoon a little gochujang, a heaping spoonful of bean paste, and a half to full teaspoon of red or Szechuan pepper . Shake up the pan again to get the flavor in there, then add 1/4 cup of chicken broth, and a splash of chinese cooking wine. You can also optionally add a cornstarch slurry (11 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water) to help the sauce get nice and shiny over the tofu.

Cover and let it simmer under low heat for at least 15 minutes.

At the last few minutes before taking the pan off the fire, add a mess of chopped scallions.

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