Everything we have been doing up to this point has just been a test, I swear. The black pepper bun, the mapo tofu...all good...but all just PRACTICE for what was to come. Soma outdoes himself, AND his competition with the Time Fuse Mapo Curry Noodles. It's a dish that combines his original idea- the black pepper bun- with the noodles he knew his customers would enjoy, and with the food of his competitor, with a super special surprise- a curry filling in the meatball! There is so much going on with this recipe, it is both amazing and overwhelming. Seriously, I'll give you a warning going into this- there are a LOT of steps involved. You have to want this dish to stick with making it. But is it worth it? Uhh....YES.
Let's start off with the curry filling. Soma gives very little indication of how he made it, beyond mentioning basic ingredients. So, I took some liberties with the recipe and went simply with the things he included, while sticking to the gelatin measurments I've already tested in the tranforming furikake recipe I made way back in the beginning of my food blogging days. As a result, this filling comes together quickly- it's really just a curry broth spiked with gelatin to help it harden and keep together while being wrapped up in the meatball.
The meatball recipe is very similar to the recipe I already introduced for the black pepper bun. However, I decided to tweak some of the measurements. I doubled the amount of pork to make big meatballs, and doubled almost everything except for the black pepper. I decided to take the black pepper flavor down just a bit, as it comes through really strongly in the bun version. While that's good there, I didn't want it to overpower the curry that would eventually be on the inside, so I decided to go easy on the black pepper in this version of the meat mixture. I think this was ultimately a good choice- if we want all of these different parts to harmonize nicely, we can't have one part of it superceding any other part in a distracting way.
The mapo tofu recipe I also tweaked from the original version I made. The original verison was based on a bunch of recipes I found online, and tweaked to resemble the version from Food Wars! as much as possible. However, in the episode directly after we first see the mapo tofu, Soma makes his own version, and gives more detail into what he puts in it. To more closely replicate the version that Soma would make, I changed the recipe a bit to incorporate in his ingredients and ideas so that the flavor in this dish would be spot on. I'm really happy with the changes I made- overall I found the mapo tofu to be really tasty, almost better than the first version I made.
Probably the trickiest thing about this recipe is the timing- I recommend making the curry filling ahead of time, and then assembling the rest of the ingredients when you are ready to eat. However, you can do this in one go. It took me about 3 hours, from start to finish, to make this dish, including freeze time for the curry. If I did it again, I'd do the curry the day before and let it freeze through. I'd also mix up the meat mixture to let it marinate together. Then, the next day, I'd assemble and cook the meatballs, and make the mapo tofu. I have indicated this path in the instructions below.
All in all, was it worth it? I am really happy and surprised to tell you: YES. This was SO GOOD. I was so worried the curry wouldn't work with the mapo tofu, but it definitely did. And the noodles were an amazing addition as well! I loved the curry and mapo tofu sauces with the noodles, and am so glad Soma included it- they act as the perfect vehicle to soak up all the sauce and really get the full effect of the flavors that have such a huge impact on the overall dish.
To start making your own, watch the video below for more instructions!
Ingredients for the Time Fuse Mapo Curry Noodles:
2 cups chicken stock
2 tbsp spicy bean sauce (Doubanjiang)
2 tbsp fermented black bean sauce (Dou-chi)
2 tsp soy sauce
Crushed Red Pepper, to taste
1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground
5 green onions, finely chopped and separated into whites and greens
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 400 gram package of soft tofu
2 1/2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch
Freshly cooked ramen noodles, 1/2 single serving package per serving
Szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground, as garnish
To Make the Time Fuse Mapo Curry Noodles:
1. Start by making the curry filling. Prepare garlic and ginger. Bring beef broth, ginger, and garlic to a boil. While boiling, dissolve gelatin in water. Let broth simmer about 10 minutes, and then strain out and discard the garlic and ginger. Add in curry powder and gelatin. Stir through, and then portion off into molds (sphere molds if you have them, some kind of silicon mold if you don't), and set in the freezer, at least two hours, preferably overnight to set completely.
2. Prepare the meatball filliing. Combine pork, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and spices. Mix well, and set aside until curry pucks are done freezing. When they are done, flatten out a portion of the meatball meat, and fold around one of the curry pucks. Place in freezer while you prepare all your meatballs.
You can optionally stop at this point, and pick up with the following directions if you'd like to make this dish in two days.
Once meatballs are ready to cook, boil in a pot of water, 6-8 minutes, or until pork is cooked through. Strain from the water and set aside in warm place for later.
3. You can do this step while the curry pucks are freezing, or the day after you make the curry pucks and meatball mixture. When ready to eat, make the mapo tofu. Add the bean paste, black bean paste, crushed red pepper, and soy sauce to the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Brown the pork in a pan, and salt well. Add in the garlic and ginger and sautee until fragrant, about 1 minute over low heat. Then, add in the chicken stock mixture. Cover and let simmer about 5 minutes. While simmering, you can optionally blanch the tofu in boiling water for about two minutes to remove any bitter flavor. Then, add the tofu into the pork mixture, and stir through. Cover and let cook for another 10 minutes, or until tofu is well seasoned. Remove the lid, and season with Szechuan pepper. Stir your cornstarch and water together, and then add to the mapo tofu and stir through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
4. Quickly boil your noodles. Bring water to a boil, and dip your ramen noodles in, about two minutes. While noodles are cooking, portion off your mapo tofu. Strain noodles and immediately section off into mapo tofu and stir through until well combined with mapo tofu sauce. Garnish with green onion and Szechuan pepper. Then place prepared meatball on top.