IT'S HERE, my party people friends. Food Wars! Season 3 has arrived and I am beyond excited for its return! The first episode started off strong, setting up the rest of the season quite nicely. I loved the pacing- it moved along quickly, and introduced new characters and ideas with little fuss. Of course, being the first episode, they didn't unload an ahhhh-maaaaaazing new dish on us to start, but I felt they did quite a nice job introducing at least one recipe to tide us over until they unleash the really good stuff. Mapo Tofu.
Oh yes, my friends, we are leaping into this recipe with CHINESE food!!!! Everyone rejoice- I literally don't know a single person who doesn't like Chinese food. Funnily enough, despite how much I love it, I've never made Chinese food for myself. "Why?" You might ask? Well, honestly, I've always been intimidated by the cooking methods and the ingredients. I didn't grow up making Chinese food, so I'm not too familiar with the ingredients or how to use them. Luckily, mapo tofu is the perfect entry-level Chinese food recipe. It's a bit of a challenge, but honestly, nothing that's hard to do by yourself.
In fact, the majority of the work takes place before you begin cooking. Probably the most time-consuming thing is the shopping- a lot of ingredients go into the cooking, but with great effect. Once you've purchased everything, start by prepping your ingredients- chop your green onions, dice up your soft tofu, and portion out your sauces and spices. Once you have all that ready, the dish comes together SO easily in one pan!
Something I debated with here was whether or not to poach the tofu before cooking in the sauce. This is a cooking technique common to Chinese cooking- pre-cooking the protein of choice in seasoned boiling water. It has the effect of softening the protein and making it super juicy. In the case of tofu, it has the benefit of helping the soft tofu stick together so that it doesn't flake off and melt apart in the pan. However, since the team in Food Wars! was making this on a time limit and, presumably, in a way that would be served very quickly for the customer. As a result, I decided to skip using a super soft tofu and just go with a regular soft tofu to avoid the blanching process and instead get right into cooking. This saves time, a cooking pot, and I didn't notice a difference in the taste, so I call this a win.
Watch the video below to get started on making you own mapo tofu!
Ingredients for the Mapo Tofu:
Recipe adapted from here.
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cooking oil
1 1/2 tbsp spicy bean sauce (Doubanjiang)
1 tbsp fermented black bean sauce (Dou-chi)
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground
3 green onions, finely chopped and separated into whites and greens
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 400 gram package of soft tofu
2 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch
To Make the Mapo Tofu:
1. Prepare ingredients. Cut tofu into squares. Chop green onion and separate into whites and greens. Portion out sauces and spices. Grind Szechuan peppercorns into powder using a food processor or mortar and pestle. Mince ginger and garlic.
2. Heat oil in a pan on high. Add in ground pork and salt. Brown and then remove from pan.
3. Lower heat and add the spicy bean sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant. Then, add in the black bean paste, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes to personal taste, and whites of the green onions. Cook until fragrant, another 1-2 minutes.
4. Add water and bring to a simmer, turning heat up to medium-high. Once at a simmer, add the soy sauce and ground pork. Place tofu on top in an even layer. Cover and cook about 7-10 minutes, stirring halfway through.
5. Combine 2 1/2 tbsp of water with the cornstarch. Stir together. Remove the lid from the pan, and add in half the cornstarch slurry. Stir through, and then add the rest of the slurry. Let cook down until the sauce sticks to the tofu nicely, about 5 minutes. Taste test, and salt as necessary.
6. Remove from the heat, and serve up. Garnish with a generous amount of freshly ground Szechuan pepper (to taste), and the greens of the onion. Serve with fresh white rice.