I judge a real chinese restaurant on one dish, and it is always Mapo Tofu. A real, sichuan chinese restaurant should have this amazing dish, and it should be exceedingly hot. When I say hot, I don't just mean mouth burning hot like you get in thai and mexican cooking. I mean that face numbing, whole body feels warm and tingly kind of hot. After two months of living on the east coast and missing Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, I knew I wanted to make my own mapo tofu (though I wanted to give it a little less star anise flavor than they have.
A lot of chinese restaurants make mapo tofu vegetarian. I assure you, nothing in real chinese cooking should be vegetarian. This dish should be filled with tofu, pork and plenty of chili. If you're looking for a dish to warm you up and clear your sinuses this winter, make this dish and serve it with rice. It's fantastic.
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ minced onion
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 4 Tbsp sambal chili paste
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 lb tofu, cubed
- 1 tbsp garlic
- 1 tbsp ginger
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 6 dried sichuan chilis
- small handful (2 Tbsp) sichuan peppercorns, ground
- 2 finely ground star anise pods
- chopped scallions
- Soak shiitakes in boiling water for 10 minutes and slice thin. Add soy, chili paste and corn starch to reserved liquid
- Sautee onions and pork together until pork is brown. Break apart large pieces and add garlic and ginger until fragrant.
- Add reserved liquid and simmer briefly with star anise, chilis and peppercorns
- Gently add tofu, and simmer until warmed
- Dress at the very end with sesame oil and scallions. Serve immediately.