Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐), and my father's story of two spoonful of oil

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐), my father’s story about 2 spoonful of cooking oil

The province of Sichuan in China is famous for its taste bud numbing pepper corns and spicy food.  One of their famous dishes is the ‘mapo tofu’, translated as the ‘pockmarked grandma’s bean curd’.

When my father was a young lad, he attended a university far away from home. Ever since then, he developed a strong craving for traveling. After graduation, he worked for a state-owned factory with a starting salary of 51 yuan a month. He did not have the budget to travel. 

One year, he was fortunate enough to be sent to Sichuan for a research project. He asked my grandmother for an cooking oil coupon.  Those days most essentials were rationed and required coupons. When he arrived, he took the coupon to a well-known local restaurant and ordered a big bowl of mapo tofu. ‘The tofu was absolutely delicious,’ he said with great enthusiasm, ‘ it had two spoonful of oil in it.”

A young traveler, somewhere in the Nortern China
My father as a young traveler, somewhere in Northern China

I have had many mapo tofu dishes over the years – they all seemed to be overly oily. But I liked them just like that  – I soaked up the oil with boiled rice. I could feel  my father’s joy and excitement as a far-away-from-home young traveler.

Recipe is as follows:  

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of traditional tofu, cut to small cubes
  • 100g of pork mince
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 1 stalk of shallot, white part only, roughly chopped (optional)
  • a few stalk of coriander, stalk part only, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. of chili soy bean paste
  • 1 tbsp. cooking oil
  • 1 tsp corn flour, mix with 3 tbsp. water
  • chopped shallot & chili (to garnish, optional)

Method:

  • Bring a frying pan to medium-high heat, add the cooking oil, onion, shallot (white part), coriander (stalk), soy bean paste and pork mince; stir fry briefly or until the pork mince is just cooked and aromatic
  • Add tofu cubes, mix gently; turn the heat is medium; cook until the tofu is ready (about 3 minutes)
  • Add the corn flour mixture (this will make the sauce thicker), mix well
  • Transfer the tofu to a serving plate, garnish with shallot and chili
Traditional tofu
Traditional tofu
Chilli soy bean paste
My favorite brand of chili soybean paste

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