Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Recipe: Ma Po Bean Curd


Feeling as though we've been playing it fairly safe with our Chinese dishes lately, I thought it was time to try something that might stretch the boundaries of Hubby's and the girls' comfort zones: Ma Po bean curd. A popular Sichuanese dish, it is made with ground pork, soft bean curd (tofu), and Sichuan pepper. The girls being sensitive to spicy food, Elle especially, we omitted the Sichuan pepper since I wanted to stretch their comfort zone, not set in on fire causing pain :) The bean curd was the ingredient we would learn to appreciate. 

Tofu is not foreign to the girls - various friends and family members are vegetarian. However, they generally leave it to others, and head for any other dish. They have eaten it in stir frys, etc, but it has always been one of many ingredients, not the star of the dish.  It certainly hasn't helped that Hubby always has an unpleasant comment or facial expression whenever the mere mention of tofu comes up. This would be all of our first time eating soft tofu, which has the consistency of custard, rather than firm tofu. I knew this dish was not going to excite them, but I hoped it would surprise them.

Cubes of soft bean curd

There is a story behind this dish: it is said that a peasant woman, only able to afford tofu and vegetables, created this dish to sell on the street to make some extra money. It became very popular, and was later named Ma Po - which literally means "pockmarked grandmother", after this lady.

Ma Po Bean Curd


Adapted from Epicurious here & here
Makes enough for six to eight as a side dish

Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp black bean paste

  • 1 package soft (not silken) tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Be sure to handle tofu gently, it is very delicate and will break easily
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 lb ground pork (some use beef, but pork is traditional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp ginger, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup dark rice wine (Shaohsing)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
  • 2 green onions, sliced
1. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add tofu, remove from heat, and let steep for 5 minutes, uncovered. Drain by transferring tofu with a slotted spoon to a separate dish. Again, handle tofu gently. 

2. Stir together ingredients for sauce and set aside. 

3. Heat your pan on high heat, and add the oil. Add pork and stir fry until no longer pink, breaking up any lumps. Reduce heat to medium, and add the garlic and ginger, cooking for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add rice wine, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir sauce, and add to meat, cooking for another minute. Now gently slide the tofu into the pan, and carefully stir it all together. Stir cornstarch mixture, and add to pan, stirring gently. Bring to boil until thickens, about 1 minutes. When serving, sprinkle with green onions.

We served this with sticky rice and stir fried broccoli. 


Verdict: The girls were not surprised. They did not care for this dish, but did eat it. The big surprise was that Hubby thoroughly enjoyed it, going back for seconds. Seconds! I will, of course, bring this up whenever he deigns to sneer at tofu again.


2 comments:

  1. Yuck!! I hate tofu with a passion. It reminds me of a square scrambled egg, without the taste of egg. I'm sure the actual taste of your meal was lovely, but for me it would have been ruined the moment you entertained the idea of putting tofu in!! And of course the very name 'pockmarked Grandmother' doesn't endear itself as an edible dish....

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    Replies
    1. Lol! Hubby vows to hate tofu as well, but then he enjoyed this dish, so I guess you just never know :) And I don't see how you don't find the name "pockmarked grandmother" just mouth watering!

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