June 30, 2010

What's This Spicy Chinese "Mapo Tofu"?

My mom has made mapo tofu since I was itty bitty.  I'm not a huge fan of spicy food but since you eat this with plain white rice, it cuts down on that upfront hit and the flavors are so good, you'll make yourself handle it.  Mapo Tofu is a traditional chinese dish - main ingredients are tofu, pork and black bean sauce/paste. You can find this dish in most chinese restaurants.

Once I started to cook for myself, I'd find myself craving my mom's dishes and end up calling her to tell me how to make it for dinner.  This is one of those recipes that when your mom makes it, it always taste SO much better.  Don't get me wrong, what I made was tasty but somehow, it just wasn't the same.  

Since it normally calls for ground pork, which I don't normally buy, I like to substitute with ground turkey. However, turkey doesnt have that fatty content like pork so to bump up the flavors I like to first incorporate it with soy sauce and garlic powder.  This step you can omit if you'd like. 

Also, since I just mentioned I'm not a fan of highly spicy food, the below is based on my taste. I admit, I'm weak. I'm sure you will want to almost double the chili sauce and black bean sauce as you taste throughout the cooking process. For the chili sauce, I linked to what I use in this dish, and you should be able to find this as well as the black bean sauce in most asian grocery store.  

Spicy MaPo Tofu
Adapted from mom's recipe
Serves 5-6

1 container of soft tofu, cut into cubes (make sure it's not the super soft/silky type)
1/2 lb ground turkey (original recipe calls for ground pork but I tend to replace with turkey)
1/4 cup soy sauce (or less)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp tapioca flour (you can use cornstarch or rice flour as well)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp minched ginger
1/2 cup chicken broth (you can substitute with water if you don't have)
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water
1 scallion, chopped

1. Mix the ground turkey with soy sauce, tapioca flour, salt and pepper.  This dish is best served with rice (especially when the sauce gets on every grain of rice = happy place) so cook that first and it will be ready when you finish making this dish.

2. In a hot, deep pan with oil, cook the ground turky and break up into small pieces - cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium and add in the ginger and the garlic - it's okay if the turkey is not all the way cooked. 
3. Add in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chicken broth, chili sauce and black bean sauce. Give it a good mix and let it sit for 2-3 minutes.  You can taste and always add in more chili sauce based on how your desired spice level.
4. Next, add the tofu.
5. Making sure your cornstarch and water combo is mixed, slowly add to the pan and give it a good mix. Let this cook for a few more minutes.  Taste and if you want more spice, add more hot sauce, salt or pepper. 
5. Sprinkly on top with chopped green onions. This is best served with hot white rice. 

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