Tofu is a wonderful ingredient to work with. Tofu is soybean curd, and is an extremely healthy ingredient to be eating. The health benefits of soy-based products is widely recognized now, with the emergence of Soy Milk in just about every grocery store. Tofu is as natural an ingredient as you can get, with little commercial processing. On its own, Tofu really isn't anything special - it has a bland taste and a soft texture. However, paired with the proper accompanying ingredients, it can be turned into a healthy and tasty delight. Ma Po Tofu is a rustic dish that hails from the Szechuan province of China. Szechuan food is known for being spicy, and although my interpretation of it doesn't have any spicy component (more so because not everyone in the household can tolerate it), the recipe can be easily adapted to allow for this.
The ingredients are:
- 3 packs of Soft Tofu, chopped into roughly 2 cm cubes
- 1/4 of a large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1 green onion, chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 pound ground pork (marinated with Soy Sauce)
- Vegetable Oil
- Dark Soy, Soy Sauce, Corn starch, Sugar, Oyster sauce (all to make the sauce)
- Heat up the wok on medium-high heat until you can sense the centre is hot
- Add in a splash of vegetable oil, followed by the garlic
- After 15 seconds, add in the onions and sautee for about 2-3 minutes
- Add in the ground pork. You'll need to break it apart as you cook it. I like to add 1/2 a teaspoon of water to the wok when stirring it as I find it prevents the pork from drying up. The ideal size that I like to break the pork up into is about the same size as the chopped Tofu.
- After another 2 minutes or so, add the frozen peas to the wok. Stir around for 30 seconds and cover with wok lid. If you'd like to add hot chili peppers for some kick, now is the time to do so.
- While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. We're now going to prepare the sauce. In a bowl, add a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch and a flat teaspoon of sugar. The next part takes a bit of experience, but pour a splash of Soy Sauce, Dark Soy, and Oyster Sauce to the cornstarch and sugar. Stir quickly or else the cornstarch will clump up.
- After about 5 minutes, check on the meat. If it's fully cooked through and through, then you're almost done. Stir it a couple of times, then add the tofu in. Let the Tofu sit for about 30 seconds, and add in the green onions. Stir again for a minute.
- Add in the sauce SLOWLY, 1/4 of it at a time. Add 1/4 of it, and stir around to ensure that the colour is evenly spread out. After the consistency and colour of the dish is a medium brown, add in a small amount (1/4 teaspoon) of Sesame Oil. NOTE: Sesame Oil is very potent. Think of it like the Vanilla Extract of cooking. If you'd like to add chili oil, now would be the time to do it.
- Plate the Ma Po Tofu. If you wish, you can sprinkle some sesame seeds on top as a garnish.