|Beef Ma Pao Dofu|
I love the dish Ma Pao Dofu (Pock Marked Old Mother's Tofu) but have never attempted to cook it myself. I've read many recipes over the years, including Fuschia Dunlop's great version. However I wanted to try something from one of the many recipe books on my shelf at home that was a little different and perhaps more Western-based (i.e. emphasis not on authenticity of ingredients but on the ease cooking and more readily available ingredients). I was given the Exploring China cookbook for a Christmas gift 2 years ago and thought I'd see if there was a recipe in there. The book is written by Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang and accompanied the fantastic BBC TV series of the same name. The recipe featured is a beef version (the dish is normally made with pork) with an addition of soya beans and is devised by Ching-He Huang. As per usual all the work is in the mis-en-place and the freshness of ingredients make the dish sing out. I had to improvise a couple of things but I was pleased to find we had facing heaven chillies in our store cupboard that gave a lovely warming and citrus flavour heat to the dish.
Here is my amended version of Ching-He Huang's recipe:
2 tablespoons ground nut / veg oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 facing heaven chilli (dried), de-seeded and cut into strips
2 small chillies, de-seeded and chopped finely
(recipe called for 1 medium fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped)
2 teaspoons of toasted Sichuan pepper corns, ground up in a pestle and mortar
2 tablespoons Shaxing rice wine (recipe says 1 but I like it boozy!)
2 teaspoons of chilli oil with shrimp paste in (recipe says chilli bean paste but I had run out)
300g minced beef (I used steak mince)
300g fresh tofu (pref. firm - recipe said 400g but I thought that was too much), cut into 1" cubes
3-4 handfuls of fresh soya bean sprouts (recipe says 75g frozen edamame beans but I didn't have any)
250ml hot beef stock (recipe says 200ml)
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 tablespoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons of cold water
Sea salt and white pepper
2 smallish leeks cut into quarters then cut diagonally, discard tougher outer bits. (Recipe says Sian Miao - Chinese leeks - or spring onions but the leeks were on offer at my local shop)
1. Prepare all the ingredients (see mis-en-place picture)
2. Heat wok over high heat and add oil, then garlic, ginger and fresh chilli and fry for a few seconds
Add ground Sichuan pepper corns and minced beef and mix well
3. Add the Shaoxing then chilli oil
4. Add tofu and 3/4 of the soya bean sprouts (hold some back to toss in at the end for a crunchy texture)
5. Pour in the hot beef stock (I used a very authentic Bisto!). Stir but be careful not to damage the tofu cubes, they are delicate little things.
6. Bring to the boil then mix in the leeks (use judgement, leave some out if needed, you don't want them to overpower).
7. Season with the soya sauce (taste it to make sure you have enough in there)
8. Stir in the cornflour mixture to thicken and season with salt and white pepper
9. Garnish with the remaining soya bean sprouts and serve (I chose to serve with fresh noodles and choi sum greens).
I would recommend the recipe book Exploring China by Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang as it is easy to follow and has beautiful photography. This is the third recipe I've tried from the book (the others being quite simply, but very tasty, salads).