mapo chickpea tofu
Mapo Tofu is one of my favorite meals. Originating from Sichuan province, it's numbingly spicy and satisfying. The literal translation is "pock-marked old woman beancurd" There a few stories of its origins, but all are based in Chengdu, and all include a pock-marked old woman as the creator of this popular dish. Variations of the dish include a small amount (4oz /125g) of minced meat or finely chopped Chinese mushrooms. It's so little, I think is works perfectly fine without this addition.
Chickpea tofu, also known as Burmese or Shan Tofu* is easy to make at home. There are only a few steps and short cooking time, but you need to time overnight to hydrate the flour, and then a few hours to let the tofu set. I haven't tried it yet, but you can also slice, dry and fry this tofu to make crackers.
FOR THE TOFU
2 cups chickpea (besan) flour
6 cups (1.9L) water
1 Tbsp neutral oil (sunflower seed, grapeseed)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
FOR THE MAPO SAUCE
One block of chickpea tofu or silken tofu (12-16oz / 350-450g), cubed
2 Tbsp neutral oil
2 Tbsp fermented broad bean chili paste (dou ban jiang 豆瓣酱)
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2" (10mm) stem of fresh gingerroot, finely chopped
1-2 scallions or chives, finely chopped
1 cup of water, divided
1 Tbsp cornstarch or tapioca starch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 - 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
MAKE THE TOFU
Soak the chickpea flour overnight in the 6 cups of water.
Without disturbing the flour that has settled to the bottom, skim 2.5 - 3 cups (1 L ) of the water out.
Heat a pot on medium high heat and coat with oil. Stir the chickpea flour mixture to loosen it up and pour into the pot. Stir in the salt and turmeric.
Cook on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring vigourously and continuously until the mixture has thickened.
Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled, or lined deep baking dish or loaf pan (I used a 6" x 6"/ 15.5mm x 15.5mm stainless steel container.) Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the dish. Let this cool and set for 3 hours or overnight.
*Derived from this recipe
MAKE THE MAPO TOFU
Bring a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and let the tofu simmer here for 2-3 minutes.
Pour 1/4 cup (60ml) of water into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch and stir to combine. Set aside.
Heat a frying pan or wok with the oil. (If using meat or mushrooms, cook them now.) Add the broad bean paste, garlic and ginger, toasting these aromatics for 1-2 minutes.
Add the remaining 3/4 cup (180ml) of water and bring to a boil. Gently add the tofu, tossing to coat. Give the cornstarch water slurry a stir and add this to the pan. Simmer for a minute or two while the sauce thickens. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and ground Sichuan peppercorns.
NOTE: A dry Mapo Tofu (don't use 3/4 cups of the water) makes a delicious Dumpling filling!
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