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Exploring "Land of Plenty" Fuchsia Dunlop [Was- Mapo Tofu]

Exploring "Land of Plenty" Fuchsia Dunlop [Was- Mapo Tofu]
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  • Exploring "Land of Plenty" Fuchsia Dunlop [Was- Mapo Tofu]

    Post #1 - February 28th, 2010, 12:49 pm
    Post #1 - February 28th, 2010, 12:49 pm Post #1 - February 28th, 2010, 12:49 pm
    LTH,

    Since reading "Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper" I've been on a Fuchsia Dunlop kick, last night was Ma Po Dou Fu from "Land of Plenty"

    Straight forward to make, ingredients readily available from Viet Hoa, though I prefer The Spice House's Sichuan Peppercorns, no stems and fresher, to those I've found in Asian groceries. Scallion pancakes made with leftover pizza dough to accompany.

    Ma Po Dou Fu

    Ducks in a Row

    Firm tofu steeped in simmering salted water, Fermented black beans, "horse ear" cut scallion, Sichuanese chili bean paste, home made chili oil, fresh ground Sichuan pepper, chili flakes (subbed for Sichuanese chile)
    Image

    Stir fry ground pork until slightly crisp, add chili bean paste, black beans, red chilies. Stir fry until well incorporated and fragrant

    Image

    Add stock, gently incorporate tofu. Sprinkle with one teaspoon sugar, two of soy sauce, dash of salt. Gently simmer 5-minutes. Stir in cornstarch slurry, be cautious, do not over thicken

    Image

    Pour into deep bowl, drizzle with chili oil, scatter with ground Sichuan pepper and serve

    Image

    Scallion Pancake

    Ducks in a Row

    Sea salt, fresh ground Sichuan pepper, sesame oil, scallion

    Image

    Roll out dough, lightly paint with sesame oil, sprinkle with sea salt, scatter with scallion and roll into a rope. Key is rolling 'rope' into a spiral, letting rest then flatten into pancake.

    Image

    Image

    Shallow fry in med-hot oil until slightly puffed and crisp

    Image

    Jasmine rice, extra drizzle of chili oil and scallion pancake made for a little taste of Sichuan at home.

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #2 - February 28th, 2010, 12:51 pm
    Post #2 - February 28th, 2010, 12:51 pm Post #2 - February 28th, 2010, 12:51 pm
    damn...

    now thats a great looking meal, and some tofu I might actually like.

    those scallion pancakes look killer.
  • Post #3 - February 28th, 2010, 12:52 pm
    Post #3 - February 28th, 2010, 12:52 pm Post #3 - February 28th, 2010, 12:52 pm
    Hi,

    Looks terrific! Is there $2.00 pork in there (per your favored quantity at Lao Sze Chuan)?

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #4 - February 28th, 2010, 12:56 pm
    Post #4 - February 28th, 2010, 12:56 pm Post #4 - February 28th, 2010, 12:56 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:Looks terrific! Is there $2.00 pork in there (per your favored quantity at Lao Sze Chuan)?
    Nope, but close, the ground pork cost $1.60, which translates to at least $3 at LSC. :)

    Actually, Dunlop's recipe calls for ground beef, I used pork.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #5 - February 28th, 2010, 1:08 pm
    Post #5 - February 28th, 2010, 1:08 pm Post #5 - February 28th, 2010, 1:08 pm
    Looks outstanding, Gary and I've been itching for both of these dishes.

    Why do I have it in my head that Mapo tofu has/could have some vinegar in it?

    (I'm certainly wrong as I can't find any online recipies calling for it...)

    Thanks for the inspiration! I'll be making this soon.
  • Post #6 - February 28th, 2010, 3:44 pm
    Post #6 - February 28th, 2010, 3:44 pm Post #6 - February 28th, 2010, 3:44 pm
    Looks nice, Gary. Ma po tofu is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I am a bit surprised to see this recipe call for firm tofu. In most renditions, it always seemed like more of a medium to soft firmness to me. Never having even attempted to make it myself, I could be wrong.

    Best,
    Michael
  • Post #7 - February 28th, 2010, 3:52 pm
    Post #7 - February 28th, 2010, 3:52 pm Post #7 - February 28th, 2010, 3:52 pm
    Looks good! What brand of bean paste did you use? I can't quite tell from the picture.

    I've used Korean gochujang for the bean paste, and gochugaru instead of chili flakes, with pretty good results.

    Also, Bridgestone, it wouldn't be terribly odd to add a bit of Shaoxing wine to the pork/beef when you're frying that...perhaps that's what you're thinking of? There are definitely some recipes in Chinese that call for it.
  • Post #8 - February 28th, 2010, 4:02 pm
    Post #8 - February 28th, 2010, 4:02 pm Post #8 - February 28th, 2010, 4:02 pm
    G Wiv wrote:Straight forward to make, ingredients readily available from Viet Hoa, though I prefer The Spice House's Sichuan Peppercorns, no stems and fresher, to those I've found in Asian groceries.


    Is that new, or did I get the wrong product? The sichuan peppercorns that I got from the spice house about 1 1/2 years ago ( I date all my spices ) is full of stems.
  • Post #9 - February 28th, 2010, 4:08 pm
    Post #9 - February 28th, 2010, 4:08 pm Post #9 - February 28th, 2010, 4:08 pm
    mtgl wrote:Looks good! What brand of bean paste did you use? I can't quite tell from the picture.

    Fuchsia Dunlop has a Sichuan chili bean paste roundup on her web site

    Purchased at Viet Hoa

    Image

    Viet Hoa
    1051 W Argyle St
    Chicago, IL 60640
    773-334-1028
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #10 - February 28th, 2010, 4:13 pm
    Post #10 - February 28th, 2010, 4:13 pm Post #10 - February 28th, 2010, 4:13 pm
    eatchicago wrote:In most renditions, it always seemed like more of a medium to soft firmness to me.

    Michael,

    Dunlop did not specify and, as I typically use firm tofu, that's what I went with. Lightly simmering in salted water firmed up the tofu further, and added a subtle flavor, resulting in the cubed tofu retaining structure even through todays lunch leftovers.

    If you prefer a softer texture tofu by all means go with soft or medium, I will probably use medium tofu next time.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #11 - February 28th, 2010, 4:18 pm
    Post #11 - February 28th, 2010, 4:18 pm Post #11 - February 28th, 2010, 4:18 pm
    lougord99 wrote:Is that new, or did I get the wrong product? The sichuan peppercorns that I got from the spice house about 1 1/2 years ago ( I date all my spices ) is full of stems.

    My Sichuan peppercorns purchased at the Spice House about 7-months ago are free of stems. I've purchased 3-4 times, all from the Spice House, since they once again became available and product quality has been consistent.

    No idea about your particular batch, but if you are unhappy with the quality I suggest giving them a call, though 1-1/2 years past purchase may be a bit late for a customer complaint.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #12 - February 28th, 2010, 4:21 pm
    Post #12 - February 28th, 2010, 4:21 pm Post #12 - February 28th, 2010, 4:21 pm
    jimswside wrote:those scallion pancakes look killer.

    Thanks, scallion pancakes are very easy to make, a little leftover bread or pizza dough is pretty much all it takes.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #13 - February 28th, 2010, 4:25 pm
    Post #13 - February 28th, 2010, 4:25 pm Post #13 - February 28th, 2010, 4:25 pm
    Bridgestone wrote:Why do I have it in my head that Mapo tofu has/could have some vinegar in it?

    Not in the recipes I've seen, plus Dunlop's recipes seem consistently on target. Might be an interesting variation though.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #14 - February 28th, 2010, 4:46 pm
    Post #14 - February 28th, 2010, 4:46 pm Post #14 - February 28th, 2010, 4:46 pm
    mtgl wrote:Looks good! What brand of bean paste did you use? I can't quite tell from the picture.

    I've used Korean gochujang for the bean paste, and gochugaru instead of chili flakes, with pretty good results.


    Great minds - this was my first attempt at making Chinese food at home. I did it by kind of guessing, and used a combo of gochujang and doenjang which I happened to have in my fridge. For a collection of mostly pantry staples, it came surprisingly close to the brown-er, porky MaPo at Lao SzeChuan, and we were all pretty happy with it.
  • Post #15 - February 28th, 2010, 9:51 pm
    Post #15 - February 28th, 2010, 9:51 pm Post #15 - February 28th, 2010, 9:51 pm
    The recipe I use, from "The Complete Chinese Cookbook" by Jacki Passmore and Daniel P. Reid (Exeter Books, 1982), calls for 4 squares of soft beancurd (which I've never been able to figure out a weight of, but I tend to use one large package); 7 oz beef (but I always use pork); 1 leek (which I find more subtle than the scallions); 1 tbs black beans; 2 tsp each of hot bean paste, garlic and ginger; 1 tsp fresh pepper or chilli sauce

    Fry the meat in some oil, add the leeks for a half-minute, add the seasonings, then a sauce of 1.5 tbs soy, 1 tbs rice wine or dry sherry, 1/2 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp sugar and 1 cup chicken stock with 1 tbs cornstarch, simmer, then add the tofu; garnish with 1 tsp "Chinese Brown Peppercorn Powder".

    It's got a very similar flavor to LSC's, although not as oily, or as hot.
    Last edited by JoelF on February 28th, 2010, 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #16 - February 28th, 2010, 10:17 pm
    Post #16 - February 28th, 2010, 10:17 pm Post #16 - February 28th, 2010, 10:17 pm
    Gary. This is 1 of Alistair's favorites.

    You know I'm going to defile it & make it at home sans animals.
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #17 - March 1st, 2010, 7:08 am
    Post #17 - March 1st, 2010, 7:08 am Post #17 - March 1st, 2010, 7:08 am
    mtgl wrote:I've used Korean gochujang for the bean paste, and gochugaru instead of chili flakes, with pretty good results.

    Interesting though while gochujang would make a good last minute substitute I would not use it by design instead of Sichuan chili bean paste. Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of gochujang, just that the flavor seems sweeter, less spicy, less 'developed' than Sichuan style.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #18 - March 1st, 2010, 7:15 am
    Post #18 - March 1st, 2010, 7:15 am Post #18 - March 1st, 2010, 7:15 am
    pairs4life wrote:Gary. This is 1 of Alistair's favorites.

    You know I'm going to defile it & make it at home sans animals.

    Mapo Tofu takes well to the vegetarian treatment, I'm sure it will be delicious. If you want to simulate the ground meat aspect hard freeze a block of tofu, when defrosted, crumbled and drained the texture is pleasantly dense and chewy.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #19 - March 2nd, 2010, 3:09 pm
    Post #19 - March 2nd, 2010, 3:09 pm Post #19 - March 2nd, 2010, 3:09 pm
    GWiv, that looks wonderful. I'm cooking for meself for a bit these days and missing A2Fay's hand in the kitchen. In fact over the weekend I was hunting for chili-bean paste to remind me of something that she makes*. Over the years, A2Fay's pretty much mastered Ma-po tofu, originally making it as described in Robert Delf's, "The Good food of Sichuan" which is similar to your/Dunlops recipe.
    A while ago, right after we moved to Pittsburgh and missing LSC, I started to take some pics. All I got was
    Ducks in a row
    Image
    (obviously, the balsamic vinegar and three other items on the top left of the pic are not ducks)

    Then as I recall I had to switch batteries in my camera and before you could say, "Chen's my grand-aunt", A2Fay had this:
    Image
    GW-Chili oil flash fried cabbage and rice round out the missing-Chicago-and-learning-to-cope-without-LSC meal. A2Fay makes the cabbage first so the wok gets coated with chili oil and is better 'seasoned' for the mapo tofu.

    The key ingredients are the tofu and the chili-bean paste.
    In Pittsburgh, A2Fay's mapo turns out even better – perhaps because the tofu we get here is probably fresher (and smaller batch) than what we've gotten while in Chicago. This is how it is available for purchase at lotus food co – soft but firm (yes I mean that) and still slightly warm, wheeled out on a cart.
    Image


    A2Fay makes it vegetarian as well and that's how we like it at LSC. Back when we were striving to make it well, a brief conversation with Chef Tony of LSC led us to seek out Pixian chili-bean paste (douban) ('Pixian' –pronounced pea-she-an approx), and we've tried many brands. The best we've tried is the one in the middle of this pic which I took at Chinatown market when stocking up on our last visit to Chicago. The rightmost one is not so good (it's a cardboard tube with the paste in a polythene baggie inside – not particularly convenient).
    Image

    Seeing your post and the discussion of chile-bean paste, I looked up current inventory of douban in my pantry – looks like I'm down to my last good bottle of douban. I still have two bottles of another brand of douban that I haven't tried yet, and even something made specifically for Mapo tofu (hmm, must try that sometime).
    Image

    But the 'good' douban is this one (on the right)
    Image

    *A dish with similar spicing is Yu Shiang Eggplant (or garlic eggplant at LSC) – the Dunlop book has a good recipe if you want to try it. It's essentially mapo tofu but eggplant rather than tofu and slightly altered ratios of otherwise same ingredients (and a little sprinkling of sugar). I made it over the weekend though I may have made some substitutions that would cause A2Fay to flinch (but sshhh). I think I have some left - maybe with some scallion pancakes (thanks to your post) will sate me tonight.

    Chinatown Market
    2121 South Archer Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60616-1513
    (312) 881-0068
  • Post #20 - March 2nd, 2010, 9:36 pm
    Post #20 - March 2nd, 2010, 9:36 pm Post #20 - March 2nd, 2010, 9:36 pm
    sazerac wrote:*A dish with similar spicing is Yu Shiang Eggplant (or garlic eggplant at LSC) the Dunlop book has a good recipe if you want to try it.

    Thanks for the suggestion, I'll try Yu Shiang Eggplant next. And, your Mapo Tofu, or should I say A2Fay's, looks wonderful.

    In keeping with my standard method of practice makes perfect or, in my case, acceptable, I made Mapo Tofu again tonight, this time using medium tofu instead of firm and, just because I'm a meat loving overweight American, double the amount pork called for.

    Mapo Tofu

    Image

    EatChicago's implied suggestion of using medium tofu was spot-on, the softer tofu lent an almost creamy feel to the finished dish which I very much enjoyed. I liked the additional meat, I used 12-oz instead of Dunlop's recommended 6-oz, though any more meat to one block of tofu would throw off the balance. I'll back down to 10-oz next time.

    Image

    JoelF, Dunlop calls for leek, with scallion as substitution. Leeks looked shopworn, scallions terrific, which is why I went scallion instead of leek.

    Couple more times in the next 10-days with Mapo Tofu and I can put it in my pocket.

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #21 - March 2nd, 2010, 10:07 pm
    Post #21 - March 2nd, 2010, 10:07 pm Post #21 - March 2nd, 2010, 10:07 pm
    G Wiv wrote:Dunlop calls for leek, with scallion as substitution. Leeks looked shopworn, scallions terrific, which is why I went scallion instead of leek.

    Always the right call.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #22 - March 3rd, 2010, 12:12 am
    Post #22 - March 3rd, 2010, 12:12 am Post #22 - March 3rd, 2010, 12:12 am
    In my experience with both Dunlop and actual food in China, leek and scallion ought to be interchangeable this way. All things being equal, leek is better (particularly for twice-cooked or huiguo pork...mmm) but it's really all good.

    The thing i like about gochujang is its savory beaniness. Heat is easy to generate by other means: i used both gochukaru and red pepper flakes in my version today. But gochujang adds not just beaniness, but the right ruby-red color that makes a presentation-worthy ma po doufu.

    I actually used beef in my version today, and though pork is obviously the more Chinese flavor, I appreciated the more grainy quality of the beef--it broke up more finely, and coated rather than complemented the tofu.

    I also much prefer silken tofu here, but that's totally personal. I'm a huge fan of douhua, to the point where I find it sweet and worth eating cold by itself, and so prefer it wherever possible.

    Also, if I may point out a slightly politicized link, http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2010/03/02/toyoda-on-mapo-tofu/

    We can all learn from this great dish.
  • Post #23 - March 9th, 2010, 8:17 pm
    Post #23 - March 9th, 2010, 8:17 pm Post #23 - March 9th, 2010, 8:17 pm
    And yet again, this time with med-firm tofu, ground beef, leek in the dish, scallion and ground Szechuan pepper to finish. Beef lent Mapo Tofu a slightly richer flavor, leek slightly more depth. I liked the ground beef version, my wife prefers ground pork, though it could be I went fairly heavy on the heat and it skewed a shade spicy for her taste. Served with brown rice, nutty chewiness a nice compliment to the heartier ground beef.

    Fourth time in two weeks, I think I have the hang of Mapo Tofu.

    Mapo Tofu

    Image

    Mapo Tofu w/brown rice

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall' Wiviott
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #24 - March 9th, 2010, 9:19 pm
    Post #24 - March 9th, 2010, 9:19 pm Post #24 - March 9th, 2010, 9:19 pm
    As I'm sure happened in households across the city, I made a batch of this yesterday - thanks for the idea and recipe. My adjustment was a hybrid twice-cooked pork and ma po tofu; I used bacon instead of ground pork, and stumbled across a great bunch of leeks. Good non-canonical smokiness; your broth / slurry / oil ratios get the consistency just right regardless of meat used.
  • Post #25 - March 9th, 2010, 9:24 pm
    Post #25 - March 9th, 2010, 9:24 pm Post #25 - March 9th, 2010, 9:24 pm
    Hi,

    What I like about these cooking along threads: what seemed unapproachable is now very approachable. It also slightly spoils my favorite reason to go to restaurants: to eat food I won't make at home.

    You only made it four times and your satisfied. That is a speed record for you. Just how many times did you make Miso soup before you hit eureka or was that your wife hitting the ceiling? :D

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #26 - March 9th, 2010, 10:09 pm
    Post #26 - March 9th, 2010, 10:09 pm Post #26 - March 9th, 2010, 10:09 pm
    G Wiv wrote:And yet again, this time with med-firm tofu, ground beef, leek in the dish, scallion and ground Szechuan pepper to finish. Beef lent Mapo Tofu a slightly richer flavor, leek slightly more depth. I liked the ground beef version, my wife prefers ground pork, though it could be I went fairly heavy on the heat and it skewed a shade spicy for her taste. Served with brown rice, nutty chewiness a nice compliment to the heartier ground beef.

    Fourth time in two weeks, I think I have the hang of Mapo Tofu.


    Enjoy,
    Gary 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall' Wiviott



    Alistair says he knows pornography when he sees it. :mrgreen:
    Ava-"If you get down and out, just get in the kitchen and bake a cake."- Jean Strickland

    Horto In Urbs- Falling in love with Urban Vegetable Gardening
  • Post #27 - March 9th, 2010, 10:47 pm
    Post #27 - March 9th, 2010, 10:47 pm Post #27 - March 9th, 2010, 10:47 pm
    As if Gary's recipe and pictures weren't enough to get me drooling...

    Santander wrote:hybrid twice-cooked pork and ma po tofu; I used bacon instead of ground pork


    *wipes chin* what a great idea
    Ronnie said I should probably tell you guys about my website so

    Hey I have a website.
    http://www.sandwichtribunal.com
  • Post #28 - March 10th, 2010, 9:30 am
    Post #28 - March 10th, 2010, 9:30 am Post #28 - March 10th, 2010, 9:30 am
    Santander wrote:I used bacon instead of ground pork

    Interesting variation, I'll have to give your spin a spin. My bride wondered how Mapo Tofu would be with shrimp, and so do I. One would have to be careful not to overcook the shrimp, but I'd guess it would be tasty.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow
  • Post #29 - March 10th, 2010, 9:48 am
    Post #29 - March 10th, 2010, 9:48 am Post #29 - March 10th, 2010, 9:48 am
    Cathy2 wrote:What I like about these cooking along threads: what seemed unapproachable is now very approachable. It also slightly spoils my favorite reason to go to restaurants: to eat food I won't make at home.

    There are foods I'm going to not make at home because of the pain-in-the-neck or time factors: deep frying, for instance is just not in my repertoire except for very, very special occasions. Chinese dishes that require a "pass through" of a couple cups of hot oil just don't happen. I'm not the baker in the house, so a raised pizza dough isn't mine to do either.

    There are foods I enjoy making at home that I'll still order in restaurants... what I can't figure out is why I keep ordering Kung Pao Chicken at restaurants, since very few do it authentically any more.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #30 - March 10th, 2010, 10:00 am
    Post #30 - March 10th, 2010, 10:00 am Post #30 - March 10th, 2010, 10:00 am
    Santander wrote:I used bacon instead of ground pork

    Interesting variation, I'll have to give your spin a spin. My bride wondered how Mapo Tofu would be with shrimp, and so do I. One would have to be careful not to overcook the shrimp, but I'd guess it would be tasty.
    Hold my beer . . .

    Low & Slow

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