Friday, 28 March 2014

Kinda, Sorta, Mapo Tofu

Since I was thinking of things to do with tofu, it occurred to me that I haven't had a good Mapo Tofu in years. I have to say, I still haven't had one. This was very tasty, but extremely not authentic. It was, however, what those of us out in the sticks are reduced to. Real Mapo Tofu requires doubanjiang, a fermented paste of fava beans and chiles. We actually drove down to Barrie (with a list of other chores too!) to look for this stuff, but the store I had located on-line had inconveniently neglected to mention that it had gone out of business, so I was out of luck.

I did have miso, and since that's at least fermented, I combined it with my chile-garlic sauce and hoped for the best. Also, I used white peppercorns since I had no Szechuan peppercorns. Apparently Bulk Barn does carry Szechuan peppercorns, but whether you can find it in stores outside of the large cities I don't know. Probably not.

I used half a package of ground turkey - and all packages these days seem to be about 1 pound, take it or leave it, and it seemed to be a bit too much meat. I recommend using more like a quarter of a package.

4 servings
1 hour prep time

Mapo Tofu

Prepare the Tofu:
400 - 450 grams (13 to 16 ounces)  firm tofu
4 cups boiling water

Rinse the tofu and cut it into fairly small bite-sized dice. Put it in a bowl and cover it with the boiling water. Set it aside as you prepare the other ingredients. 

Make the Sauce:
1 to 2 tablespoons dark miso
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns (or white peppercorns)
about 1 tablespoon chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon Sucanat or dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder

Thin the miso with the vinegar in a small mixing bowl, then grind the Szechuan or white peppercorns. Mix the pepper, plus all the remaining ingredients into the miso and vinegar.

Finish the Dish:
4 to 6 cloves of garlic (1 head)
a 4" piece of ginger
3 to 4 green onions
OR 2 large shallots
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
100 to 250 grams ground lean beef, pork or turkey
2 teaspoons arrowroot or cornstarch
2 cups water or broth

Peel and mince the garlic. Peel and mince the ginger. Trim the green onions, and finely chop the white and green parts, keeping them separate, or if they are not in season, peel and mince the shallots.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. When hot, add the ginger and white onion parts, or shallots. Cook, stirring for a couple of minutes until softened. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for another minute or so. Crumble in the ground meat, and mix it in well, cooking and stirring until it shows no signs of rawness.

Drain the tofu well, and mix it into the skillet. Add the sauce ingredients and mix in well. Dissolve the arrowroot or cornstarch in about 1/4 cup of the water, and set it aside. Add the remaining water to the skillet, and mix well, making sure nothing is sticking to the pan. Once everything is well-amalgamated and simmering along nicely, quickly mix in the starch and water, and continue cooking and stirring until the sauce has thickened and cleared, just a minute or two more. It should be fairly soupy. Garnish with the green onion tops, if you have them, and serve with steamed rice.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint

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