So I was watching the anime Angel Beats with my brother one day, when one of the characters picks up a meal card for the “infamous mapo tofu” that’s so ridiculously spicy it makes you cry. It looks like this:
Angel Beats–“Mapo Tofu” And mine, looks like this:
Mapo Tofu, or Mapo Doufu as I like to call it [Doufu is Mandarin Chinese for Tofu] is amazing. In episode five of Angel Beats, Otonashi [the kid with the orange hair] and Hinata [blue hair] munch up. Aside from this scene being hilarious, it pretty much accurately showcases what it feels like to eat Mapo Doufu, especially for the first time ;)
The Eating Process
shocked by spiciness/OMG IT’S BURNS~~~~~
twitchy cool down
Yeah. It’s pretty spicy.
Oddly enough though, and the show describes it right: it’s the aftertaste. The lingering explosion of flavor. Mapo Doufu is not mindlessly spicy. No one that I’ve ever fed this to has ever said to me “WHY!? WHY DO YOU TORTURE YOURSELF WITH THIS CRAP!? WHY ARE YOU TORTURING ME WITH THIS CRAP!?” Instead, they keep stuffing their faces. It’s. Just. That. Good.
Now, I’ve made Mapo Doufu plenty of times before I posted this recipe. A lot of the recipes I’d tried before just didn’t get it quite right in terms of spicyness. This, in my delusional mind, the mind that believes all Sichuanese cuisine is supposed to pull a Hinata (see above) on my taste buds, left me regrettably hankering for a more authentic Mapo Doufu recipe. One that hadn’t been toned down to fit a more western notion of spiciness. Rasamalaysia.com has perhaps the best Mapo Doufu recipe out on the web–and I would highly suggest purchasing Bee Yinn Low’s Easy Chinese Recipes if you want the taste of some REAL Chinese food made at home. In my culinary adventures, I’ve found that a few things really make the Mapo Doufu. One is the type of dou la jiang you use (the one I have pictured below I find gives the best flavor, and is in fact, the specific brand of dou la jiang that my aunt,who is is from Chengdu, the home of Sichuanese cuisine, uses in her own cooking) as well as the use of cayenne pepper and water as a stock instead of chicken stock. The hua jiao oil is also an essential, as it is what gives the dish the infamous Sichuanese “ma la” 麻辣(numbing and spicy) sensation.
Though I am a lover of spicy food–and if you are like me, you want to follow this recipe to a T if you want that authentic taste; however, if you’re a little intimidated by the pictures (hehe) then I would recommend toning down the spices to suit your own personal preference (^-^)
Ingredients [adapted from rasamalaysia.com with minor twist and turns]
8 oz ground beef [I used Trader Joes 96/4 lean to fat ratio]
1 block firm tofu
1 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
2 green onions cut into small rings
2 cloves garlic minced/2 tsp pre-minced garlic
3 dried chilies, seeds removed
3 tbsp dou la jiang 豆辣酱 [spicy bean paste]
1 tsp dou chi 豆豉 [fermented salted black beans] rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp low sodium light soy sauce
½ cup water
3 tbsp chili oil
1 tbsp hua jia oil [Sichuan peppercorn oil]
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tsp corn starch
1 tbsp cold water
- Take the ground beef in a bowl and add 1 tbsp of shaoxing rice wine, mix together with a fork. Cover and let sit for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, drain the tofu by wrapping it in paper towel on a plate. Cover it with another plate (I used the family supply of Nations Pie Pans for this =P), and place two 16 oz cans of soup/chili/etc on top to act as a weight. Let sit for 15 minutes, or until all the water has soaked out. Periodically change the paper towels if they become too soaked during this process.
- While both the beef and tofu are doing their business, chop up the green onion into fine rings and set aside.
- If you have pre-minced garlic, like moi, then scoop out 2 tsp and set aside. Otherwise, peel and then mince 2 cloves of garlic.
- Take 3 finger length dried chilies, and with either a knife or a pair of kitchen scissors, remove seeds and cut into fine rings.
- Scoop out 3 tbsp of the dou la jiang and set aside.
- In a small strainer take 1 tsp of the dou chi [fermented black beans] and rinse under “cool water” [with like sunglasses and stuff]. When done, run a knife through them until coarsely chopped.
- In a small bowl or cup, combine 1/2 cup of water with 2 tbsps of cayenne pepper and 1 tsp light soy sauce: stir.
- In another small bowl or cup add 1 tsp of cornstarch then 1 tbsp of cold water. Mix until combined.
- Heat a wok, or sauce pan on medium-high until hot [or you begin to see light smoking] Then add 1 tbsp of cooking oil, 3 tbsp of chili oil, and 1 tsp of hua jiao oil. Add the ground beef with the garlic and dou la jiang. Cook until the beef is about half way done. Add the black beans and stir.
- Stir the water-cayenne-soy sauce mixture and then add to the wok. Mix until combined. Let come to a boil.
- Gently add in the tofu, and, with a spatula, gently push the tofu from one side to the other to avoid crumbling. DO NOT STIR or you will break the tofu. Lower the heat and let shimmer for a few minutes.
- Stir the cornstarch mixture, and then add it to the wok. Gently shake the wok, and push the mixture from one side to the other with a spatula to incorporate.
- Once the mixture thickens slightly, turn off the heat, and garnish with green onion.
- Lastly. Stuff your face. Must eat with white rice.