The same shopping trip that picked up ingredients for my homemade Dan Dan Mein led me to make my other favorite Szechuan dish, Mapo tofu. This fragrant and spicy dish translates roughly as “pockmarked old lady tofu”, possibly due to its “unattractive” appearance.
Again I used a hardcore online recipe as my base.
Like most Szechuan dishes, it involves a lot of chilies. Above some Chinese dried chilies.
I made this into chili oil by taking peanut oil and frying the chilies. For whatever reason, it didn’t get very red. It tasted chili-enough. Maybe I needed some chili flakes.
And, of course, Mapo wouldn’t be real Mapo without Szechuan Peppercorns, about to be lightly mashed. These incredibly aromatic bits of vegetation provide the “mala” (numbing spiciness) that is so characteristic of this dish.
I fry them up here in oil.
Meanwhile chopping garlic and ginger.
Add in the garlic.
Add in the ginger.
Then I used ground lamb as my meat, since I can’t use pork.
Mixed in to brown.
Szechuan hot bean paste is a key salty ingredient to this dish. This is a mix of fermented broad beans, soy beans, salt, and various spices.
Then some (Kosher) chicken broth.
Adds a little liquid to the sauce.
Which we proceed to thicken up with that age old thickener, corn starch.
Then that whole pot of chili oil went in. Woah! This is one oily suspension (it always is at a good Szechuan restaurant).
Silken tofu is another key ingredient, here cut by me into cubes.
In it goes, this isn’t the most complicated of preps really.
Cook for just a touch longer and serve.
This isn’t the loveliest dish, and mine was uncharacteristically tan instead of red — despite packing a pretty serious hot and numbing punch — but it tasted pretty dead on like a nice Szechuan restaurant version. The lamb was a good addition too, adding a “spicy” heft as opposed to the pork. Really delicious stuff which got the forehead sweating!