This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes which originates from the Chinese province of Sichuan. Sichuanese cuisine is well known for its spiciness due to its geographical proximity to Southeast Asia. Thai, Burmese and Indian cuisines are responsible for the hot and spicy cuisines of this region. Chili and pepper flavored food stimulates sweating which helps to cool you down in the summer while producing warmth in the damp and cold Sichuan winters. Tofu on its own is very bland (like lentils) but mixed with other ingredients it’s quite lovely and this dish, I feel, brings out the best in tofu. Tofu is a highly nutritious, protein-rich food that is made from the curds of soybean milk. Research on soy protein in recent years has shown that regular intake of soy protein can help to lower total cholesterol levels by as much as 30%, lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels by as much as 35-40%. Click here for more health benefits. Tofu can be braised, deep fried, stuffed (another favorite of mine), stir-fried etc. Click here for a Tex-Mex tofu recipe.
recipe from The Food of China
750g soft or firm tofu, drained
250g minced beef or pork
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 tablespoon oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili bean paste (or to taste)
250ml (1 cup) chicken or meat stock
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
Cut the tofu into cubes. Place the meat in a bowl with 2 teaspoons of the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of the rice wine and the sesame oil and lightly toss. Dry-fry the peppercorns in a wok or pan until brown and aromatic, remove from pan and crush lightly. In a wok over high heat, add the oil and heat until very hot. Stir-fry the meat until browned, mashing and chopping to separate the pieces. Remove the meat. Drain any liquid left in the wok. Add a dash of oil followed by spring onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 10 seconds. Add the chili paste and stir-fry a further 5 seconds.
Combine the stock with the remaining soy sauce and rice wine. Add to the wok, bring to a boil, then add the tofu and meat. Return to the boil, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or until the sauce has reduced by a quarter. If you are using soft tofu, do not stir or it will break up. Combine the cornstarch with enough water to make a paste. Add to the sauce and simmer until thickened slightly. Serve with chopped spring onion and Sichuan peppercorns.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: This can be made ahead of time and the flavors will develop. The house smells like a China kitchen. It’s an easy meal to prepare and you really can’t do anything wrong to this dish. Serve this over a bed of jasmine rice along with a side of steamed bok choy. Enjoy and Happy New Year…the year of the dragon!