I know, I have been neglecting you for the last few weeks. It’s no excuse, but here goes anyway: I was minding my own business, chopping, stirring and typing and I got a call from the editor of a big magazine. I mean like, BIG. And apparently this mag is sticking around. Out of the blue they decided that they liked my first book, The Farm to Table Cookbook and they asked me to write a 9-recipe feature about spring vegetables. So needless to say, I’ve been elated and busy in the kitchen for the past few weeks. Happily dancing about with asparagus, artichokes and peas.
In between all of that, my second book, The Adaptable Feast, appeared on the shelves at my local New Seasons Market and on the virtual shelves of Amazon and Powell’s. Very exciting, Adaptable Feast is finally available to the masses! SO, if you like my recipes, or live with a Mr. or Mrs. Tofu yourself, or are anticipating sharing the holidays with someone of a different diet, or know someone who is, order AF here. If you’d like to have a copy signed, see my appearance schedule, including Wordstock, here. Thanks!
Now, on to the food. I love ma po tofu. The name is said to refer to a pock-marked grandmother/restaurateur in the Szechuan province of China who first served a dish of silky tofu swathed in a sauce of black bean sauce, Szechuan pepper and ground pork. I’ve always found it kind of funny that there exists dishes that combine tofu with meat, seems counter-intuitive. But when meat is scarce and tofu is not, meat becomes a flavor agent, a condiment. And that’s a fine, healthy way of eating. In cultures where tofu isn’t considered food only for tree-hugging hippies, it makes sense.
Ma Po Tofu For Meat Eaters
The Szechuan peppercorns in this dish will amplify the chili heat, and make your lips and tongue a bit numb. It’s a fantastic sensation, if you like that sort of thing. Szechuan peppercorns aren’t from the pepper family, but rather the prickly ash tree. Until recently they were banned by the USDA from being imported into the U.S. because they might contain a citrus canker disease that, if introduced into the country, might wipe out all of our citrus trees. So for years we’ve lived without. A few years ago the ban was lifted, now it’s fairly easy to find it at gourmet shops and Asian markets. If you don’t have it, just substitute black pepper in this recipe. Between me, you and the Cuisinart, it’s not my favorite thing, so I use it in moderation.
But what about the meat in it? For Mr. Tofu, the sauce gets tofu crumbles (also notice his bowl has no broccoli on it. He hates it. Can’t imagine why.) I add cooked ground pork or beef for my portion, so we’re both a little numb and tingly. Hope you like it, and thanks for checking back in with Ivy’s Feast! I’ll be here more often from now on, I promise.
Ma Po Tofu for Everyone
Serves 2 vegetarians and 2 omnivores
2 tablespoons garlic chili paste such as Sambal Olek brand
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 heaping tablespoon black bean garlic paste such as Lee Kum Kee brand
1 cup No-chicken broth or homemade vegetable broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons thin soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
14 ounces firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ounces tofu crumbles
4 ounces ground pork or beef, browned and drained
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns, toasted in a dry pan and ground
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 small bunch broccoli, cut into florets and steamed
4 cups steamed rice
Combine the chili paste, rice wine, sugar, and black bean paste in a small bowl. In a separate glass measuring cup, combine the broth, cornstarch and soy sauce.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the chili paste mixture and stir fry until fragrant, 1 minute. Stir the broth mixture to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved and add it to the pan. Simmer until the sauce is bubbly, about 1 minute. Gently fold the tofu into the sauce.
Vegetarian: Transfer half of the contents of the wok to a saute pan and gently fold the soy crumbles into the tofu mixture. Cook over medium heat until hot throughout, 2 minutes.
Fold the cooked ground meat into the remaining sauce/tofu in the wok and cook over medium heat until heated through, 4 minutes.
Sprinkle half of the ground pepper over the meaty ma po tofu, the other half over the vegetarian ma po tofu and serve with rice.