Mapo tofu in my kitchen in Stockholm, 2020
Making satisfying photos of food is so much harder when it is already dark outside since three in the afternoon. And when the dish I am making isn’t particularly photogenic, I end up with a picture like the one above.
Alas, let’s talk actual cooking. Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from the Sichuan province. The tofu is set in a spicy, thin sauce based on a fermented broad bean and chili paste (doubanjiang) and fermented black beans (douchi), with some additional minced beef. One of the food blogs I follow is aptly title China Sichuan Food. Two days ago, their post on mapo tofu reached my feed reader, which was my main inspiration for this dish. And of course, I also quickly read through the Wikipedia page to establish a broader understanding on the history of the dish.
I started off by boiling diced soft tofu in lightly salted water. Carefully get it out. We don’t want to dice it up any further. Proceed by frying up the minced meat in some oil until it gets crispy. Take it out and drop a tablespoon of doubanjiang in the pan. Lightly whisk it through the oil, until everything has a pleasantly red color. I then added some fermented black bean sauce, instead of just the beans themselves, because that was what I still had standing in my fridge. At this point, also add chopped garlic, ginger, and scallion. It is aroma time, so stir around some more until it comfortably wafts through your kitchen. Now add some water (I added somewhere around 400 milliliters), a tablespoon of light soy sauce, some sugar, and half of our cooked meat. Let everything simmer for three minutes or so. Now carefully slide in our tofu and let everything simmer for another eight to ten minutes. In a separate glass or bowl, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch with two-and-a-half tablespoons of water. After our sauce has simmered for a while, stir in half of our starch mixture, wait half a minute, and stir in the rest.
Oftentimes, mapo tofu is served in a visually pleasing bowl, with a bowl of steamed rice on the side. I had my bowl of rice ready and instead ladled the sauce on top directly from the pan. Keep in mind that this dish is supposed to have a numbing sensation of heat and cook accordingly.
Max Crone, CC BY 4.0