Thursday, May 12, 2022


An essay from a few years ago reminded me of a lovely recipe. To be more precise about that, I looked at my blog stats today and discovered that something I wrote about pie, in which I casually gave a recipe for something else, has attracted the attention of probable spambots, because nobody could be interested in what I wrote that long ago.
I am an impossibly boring person, and my opinions are dated.

I am also a single male grouchy old codger, and live alone with a collection of voodoo dolls. There are rumours that I am sentient and bipedal, but I can assure you that these are malicious exaggerations.


One block firm tofu (14 oz).
1/4 lb ground meat.
2 TBS chili paste.
2 TBS Szechuan hot bean paste (辣豆瓣醬 'laat dau baan jeung'; douban sauce).
2 TBS regular oil.
1 TBS chili oil.
½ TBS Sichuan peppercorns (花椒 'faa jiu'), roasted and finely ground .
½ Tsp fermented black beans (豆豉 'dau si'), soaked and mashed.
2 scallions, cut to 2 inch lengths.
2 gloves garlic, chopped.
½ TBS soy sauce.
Quarter cup bone stock and a brisk jigger of sherry or rice wine.
Pinch of sugar, pinch of cornstarch - blended in a little hot water.

Cut tofu into chunks, blanch in gently boiling water, drain. Sauté the ground meat, garlic, and Sichuan bean paste in the two oils till the meat is no longer pink. Add the chili paste, fermented black beans, and soy sauce, stir around to mix everything, then add the tofu, bone stock, and sherry. Cook, gently stirring (to prevent the tofu breaking up) for a few minutes, then add the Szechuan pepper, scallions, and the pinches of sugar and cornstarch which have been blended in a little hot water. Stir a little longer and plate it.

Please note that while there are versions of Ma Po Tofu which are vegetarian, these are quite pointless. Someone from Canton or Hong Kong will add meat: ground fatty pork -- ask for 梅頭豬肉碎 ('mui tau chü yiuk seui') -- and it wouldn't be any great heresy to dump a crumbled fried rasher of bacon on top either. As a garnish along with the cilantro.

AFTER THOUGHT: Yesterday I purchased something of which I really should disapprove, namely a Taiwanese satay sauce (沙茶醬 'saa chaa jeung'; "shacha sauce"), composed of the usual suspects: garlic, shallots, dried lizard fish, sesame, coconut powder, chilies, dried shrimp, and soybean oil. This bears scant relation to real satay sauce, which as every Dutchman knows must always include peanuts, palm sugar, and chilies, in addition to whatever else. Never-the-less, it is a handy cooking aide. A spoonful added to the pan, followed by a hefty sploodge of hot sauce or sambal ulek, and stock, tomato puree, or jarred salsa, is an easy shortcut to a gloopy sauce for spaghetti or grilled bratwurst.

The second character (茶) is pronounced 'te' in the Min (閩) languages, but 'cha' in Mandarin and 'chaa' in Cantonese. Hence the semblance of a misnomer.

Shacha sauce could also be added to your mapo tofu. Why not? You aren't cooking for purists, and if you have white people at your table none of them will know the difference anyway. So go ahead.

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All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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