Friday, November 18, 2011

Discover the Story & Recipe Behind Mapo Tofu

The Story Behind Mapo Tofu
Mapo TofuThe name Ma Po Tofu (má pó dòu fǔ 麻婆豆腐) is roughly translated as “pockmarked grandmother beancurd,” named after an old woman who supposedly invented the dish in the Qing Dynasty. "Chen Xingsheng Fanpu" generally sell rice and vegetables. The old lady suffered smallpox as a child hence, leaving pocks all over her face, and she is known as Chen Mapo (麻婆).

Because of her disfigurement she lived the life of an outcast outside the provincial capital, Chengdu. One dark and stormy night, a wealthy businessman stopped at her home to seek shelter from the rain. Delighted at having a guest, she raided her meager pantry to put together a dish made with tofu and pork. The traveler was so amazed by her delicious creation that he sent more travelers her way for Ma Po’s Doufu.

Her business thrived as she was famous for inexpensive price yet excellent taste. After the woman died, people named her specialty "Mapo Tofu" to remember her, which literally means tofu made by the freckled woman. The name has lasted until today and the dish is an international favorite, favored by foreigners as well.

Characteristics
True Mapo doufu is powerfully spicy with both conventional "heat" spiciness and the characteristic "mala" (numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. The feel of the particular dish is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: 麻 (numbing), 辣 (spicy hot), 烫 (hot temperature), 鲜 (fresh), 嫩 (tender and soft), 香 (aromatic), and 酥 (flaky). These seven characteristics are considered to be the most defining of authentic Mapo doufu. The authentic form of the dish is increasingly easy to find outside China today, but usually only in Sichuanese restaurants that do not adapt the dish for non-Sichuanese tastes.
The most important and necessary ingredients in the dish that give it the distinctive flavour are chili broad bean paste (salty bean paste) from Sichuan's Pixian county (郫县豆瓣酱), fermented black beans, chili oil, chili flakes of the heaven-facing pepper (朝天辣椒), Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, green onions, and rice wine. Supplementary ingredients include water or stock, sugar (depending on the saltiness of the bean paste brand used), and starch (if it is desired to thicken the sauce).

Variations
Mapo Doufu can also be found in restaurants in other Chinese provinces and in Korea, Japan and Taiwan, where the flavor is adapted to local tastes. In Japan, where the dish is called mābō tōfu (マーボー豆腐), it was introduced by Chen Kenmin who opened the first Sichuanese restaurant in Tokyo in the 1950s. Instead of using only the salty and spicy bean paste, Chen also adopted sweet bean paste in the recipe and make the dish less spicy and less oily. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, similar variations can also been found. In the west, the dish is often adulterated, with its spiciness severely toned down to widen its appeal. This happens even in Chinese restaurants, commonly those not specialising in Sichuan cuisine. In American Chinese cuisine the dish is often made without meat to appeal to vegetarians, with very little spice, a thick sweet-and-sour sauce, and added vegetables, a stark contrast from the authentic. Vegetarians can often still enjoy the powerful taste of the authentic dish, however, as it can easily be made without meat at all (and simply just tofu) while not toning down the spices; this version is technically referred to as Mala doufu although this name is not always well-known.

Recipe (Marc Matsumoto is a food blogger and photographer who spreads his passion for food through his websites norecipes.com and wanderingcook.com.)
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 4 green onions white part only, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, roughly chopped (black bean paste will also work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, black seeds removed then ground (optional)
  • 6 ounces ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons doubanjiang (chili bean paste)
  • 14 ounce block of silken tofu, drained and cut into 3/4” cubes
  • green part of green onions minced for garnish

Directions

  1. Add the chicken stock, cornstarch, soy sauce and sugar to a small bowl and stir to combine.
  2. Heat a wok or large frying pan until very hot. Add the sesame oil, garlic, ginger and green onions and stir-fry with a spatula until fragrant. Add the black beans and Sichuan pepper and continue stir-frying.
  3. Add the ground pork and use the spatula to break it up into small grains (you don’t want clumps of meat). When the pork is cooked, add the doubanjiang and stir to distribute. Add the tofu, and toss to mix (if you stir it, the tofu will lose its shape).
  4. Give the stock mixture a good stir to incorporate anything that may have settled, and then pour it over the pork and tofu. Toss to coat, then boil until the sauce thickens.
  5. Garnished with the green parts of the green onions, then serve with hot rice
Alternative Quick Method
Use House Foods Mapo Tofu Seasoning
Silken Tofu
Stirfry the seasoning

add minced pork
add tofu

add water and simmer for 15 mins

Even the Hot version is Not Hot at all. You might have to add more chilli flakes or szechuan peppercorn if you like spicy.



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