Ma Po Tofu – 麻婆豆腐

My first official #Veguary post. The yummy, spicy, mouth numbing Sichuanese tofu favourite. This isn’t the first veggiefied Chinese dish I’ve done. Like before you can use the exact amounts of real pork mince or vegetarian substitute. You have to eat this with rice, no exceptions.

Serves 4.

Ma Po Tofu:
450 g tender tofu (not too silken)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground garlic
1 tbsp grated ginger
100 g mince (vegetarian or pork)
2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tsp fermented black beans, rinsed and lightly mashed
1 tsp garlic and black bean sauce
100 ml stock (veg or chicken)
pinch of sugar
1 tsp light soy
salt to taste
white pepper to taste
2 tbsp spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 pinch of white sesame seeds to garnish

Cut the tofu into 2 cm cubes. Place them in a large enough frying pan and carefully add boiling water to the pan until they are covered then add a small pinch of salt. This will make the tofu more tender to the bite. Set aside while you cook the rest.

Wok on medium-high heat. Once hot, add oil. When the oil is almost smoking, add the Sichuan peppercorns, chilli flakes and ginger. Stir until fragrant. Add your mince and stir fry until browned.

Lower the heat and add the garlic, chilli bean paste, and black beans. I like to add the garlic and black bean sauce for that extra black bean punch. The oil should get lovely and red.

Add the stock and carefully drain the tofu and add to the wok. Season to taste with the sugar, soy and white pepper. Taste it before you add any extra salt, it should taste spicy and really rich. Simmer for at least 5 minutes.

You’re ready to serve up. Finish with the spring onions, a drizzle of sesame oil and sprinkle of sesame seeds.

 

Chinese Styled Pumpkin Stew with Kale and Mince

As the title suggests, this is a Chinese stew type dish which really reminds me of wintertime in Hong Kong. And after these past few cold rainy days, I really needed some HK styled comfort food. The type that has gloriously squidgy textures and an oyster saucy gravy that goes divinely with plain steamed rice. This is rather hilariously made with posh versions of all the 3 main ingredients of pumpkin, carrots and kale (Casperita squash, purple carrots and cavolo nero), obviously you can substitute with the more easily found versions in your grocery isle. I’ve also used Quorn mince instead of proper meat mince, if you would like to use real meat, go for pork mince. Failing that, turkey or chicken.

Chinese Pumpkin Stew:
1 small squash or pumpkin (Cantaloupe melon sized?)
1 carrot - chopped
2 generous handfuls of kale - shredded
2 cloves garlic - slightly smashed
4-6 shallots - quartered
1 tbsp veg oil
250 g mince
1/2 cup water
1-2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tbsp chilli bean paste
2 cardamom pods - lightly smashed
1 whole star anise
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp white pepper
salt to taste
1 tsp cornflour (optional)

Oven to 170°C. Chop up your squash and cut it into smallish chunks, I left the skin on because I like the extra texture after roasting, toss them in a bowl with a bit of oil, white pepper and some salt. This is probably where the recipe isn’t strictly Chinese as not everyone has an oven back home, but I really like the slight crisping of the edges roasting provides. Roast until tender about 30-40 minutes.

While that’s roasting. Pan on the stove. Medium-high heat. Heat the oil then sauté the garlic and shallots until slightly tender. Add your smashed cardamom pod, star anise and cinnamon and fry to release some nice smells. Now add your mince and brown a bit. Carrots, the 1/2 cup of water, oyster sauce and the chill bean paste go in next. Cover and cook until the carrots are tender. The kale goes in last for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

The optional cornflour should be used to thicken the sauce at this point. In a small bowl, mix thoroughly with a tablespoon of cold water and add it to the pan and stir in well. Be careful! Too thick and it becomes horrible Chinese takeaway gloopy – and nobody needs that. Stir through your pumpkin and serve up. There should be enough to feed two. Or, one very hungry small person…

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