It reads like a do-re-mi song doesn´t it? But what it actually is: an attempt at somewhat authentic Chinese cooking.
I had Ma Po Dou Fo on my mind ever since I browsed Fuchsia Dunlop´s Land of Plenty for my Chinese dinner last weekend. I´ve made it a couple of times before and had it in Chinese restaurants, and I love this dish so much - the warm spicyness of the chili bean paste, the numbing hotness of the Szechuan pepper corns, the crumbly meat and the soft slippery tofu. It so happened that today I had a packet of good, semi-soft tofu in my fridge, and some ground meat. Ma Po Dou Fu time!
(For some background info on this dish I refer you to our friend Wiki - a nice summary of various legends and historical facts).
Reading Fuchsia Dunlops recipe, I realized I had no leeks or spring onions. Also, I wanted to have some vegetables with my dinner, and being to lazy to stirfry some vegetables seperately, I decided to just incorporate them into the dish. Instead of 450 grams of tofu and 175 grams of meat, my version has 300 grams of tofu and 250 grams of meat - simply because that´s what I had. To make up for the lack of leeks I added a shallot and some garlic, to substitute for the greenness of the leeks I added some chopped coriander stalks... and I guess that the final version is now far far away from the ´authentic original´.... but oh boy, was it ever good.
My Ma Po Dou Fu 200 grams Chinese leaf cabbage, stalk parts only, sliced 250 grams ground meat (I used half beef / half pork) 300 grams soft tofu, cut into cubes 1 shallot, sliced 1 fat clove of garlic, minced 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and dried and chopped 2 - 3 tablespoons Szechuan chili bean paste 1 teaspoon light soy sauce 1 good pinch of sugar 300 ml water a cornstarch slurry made with 3 tablespoons cornflour and 1 tablespoon cold water Szechuan pepper, toasted and ground, to taste 8I used about 2 teaspoons - but I really love the stuff) chopped coriander stalks or sliced springonions, to garnish vegetable oil for frying (this is supposed to be a pretty greasy dish, Dunlops recipe calls for 1/2 cup of peanut oil - I used about a 1/4 cup)
Heat your wok or frying pan and add the oil. When the oil is nice and hot, add the meat, breaking it up with a spatula. When it´s partly browned (but not cooked through) add the shallot and garlic and stri fry for a minute. Add the chili bean paste and stir fry until everything is nice and red. Add the chopped black beans, soy sauce, sugar and the water and simmer the sauce a couple of minutes. Then add the cabbage and when this is almost done, add the tofu. Stir very gently while mixing in the tofu. Add enough of the cornstarch slurry to slightly thicken the sauce (maybe add a little more water if it looks dry). Sprinkle with coriander or springonions and serve over rice (although I also really really love this over noodles - sort of like a very feisty spaghetti Bolognese).