Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Doodad

Ma Po done right

Recommended Posts

I love Ma Po tofu. Love it. I make it all the time and have tried various recipes and they just are not up to snuff. I have had good versions in restaurants and can't replicate them for the life of me. I tend to come out too dry or if the sauce is the right amount and consistency, the flavor is not right. Can someone give me an authentic recipe that ends up with the right proportion of ingredients and flavor? Thanks in advance.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I doubt there is one definitive version. Every Sichuan cook has their subtle differences.

Fuchsia Dunlop's version from her excellent "Land of Plenty" is very similar to what I have eaten in Sichuan.

The recipe is on line at her publisher's UK website, here.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I cook dishes from all around the world and ma po dofu is possibly my favourite of all of them. Made well, it has a most wonderful combination of explosive flavours and delicate textures.

Like Luizhou my favourite version (I have tried many) is Fuchsia Dunlop's, with the following notes:

1. I make my own tofu. I have posted my recipe elsewhere on the site. If you are not going to these lengths I would recommend a soft (but not silken) Chinese-style fresh tofu, coagulated with gypsum. Dice it into 2cm cubes.

2. I use Lee Kum Kee brand toban jian as it is easy to get and I believe good quality. The more hardcore option is to find paste which is made in Pixian, which I have managed to do once or twice. It has a more depth of flavour, however its earthy, musty taste may not appeal to everybody.

3. If you use the right tofu you need to take care not to break it up when adding it or completing the dish. Once I have added the tofu I avoid stirring for the remaining stages of the dish and instead shake the pan to coat and mix ingredients.

4. I like to simmer the tofu for a good 8- 10 minutes in the sauce before thickening in order to ensure good penetration of flavour. Be careful not to boil down the sauce too much: there should be plenty of it without it being soupy.

5. I add about 100g peas a minute or two before thickening the sauce. They add a sweetness that balances nicely with the other flavours. If you take this step you can cut back the sugar in Fuschia's recipe to a pinch.

I would love to hear other peoples tips for cooking this magnificent dish!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is one of my sister's favorite dishes and I am planning on making it for her when she comes to visit next month. I recently acquired Dunlop's Land Of Plenty and was going to use her recipe but I noticed that she uses ground beef rather than ground pork. Would it be wrong to use pork instead of beef?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing is "wrong". Cook it as you like.

I seem to recall that she merely points out that beef was the traditional choice. Certainly in Sichuan today, they use beef or pork, depending on the cook's whim or preference.

I'm in China and had it as one dish for lunch today. It was pork.


Edited by liuzhou (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nothing is "wrong". Cook it as you like.

I seem to recall that she merely points out that beef was the traditional choice. Certainly in Sichuan today, they use beef or pork, depending on the cook's whim or preference.

I'm in China and had it as one dish for lunch today. It was pork.

Thank You! Whenever I have been with my sister, when she orders this dish, she has always asked for a bit of pork to be added if it was not already to be included.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe it's more Toisanese, but I've always used ground pork. I haven't used Fushia's recipe. I've always gone blithly on from what I remember and what I liked - most likely unorthodox. :rolleyes:

I also do not add fermented black beans or sugar :unsure: , but I do add a splash of vinegar...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The recipe cited is almost exactly how I make mine, but it comes out dry unless I up the amount of stock and it still lacks something. I think I may try some new brands of black bean and chili paste.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There are pre mixed Do Fu sauces that you can get in the Asian section of most grocery stores. They come in both Mild and Hot versions. All you do is add the tofu and ground pork. I get the Hot version and then boost it to my taste with Oyster, Chili Garlic sauces, and a bit of soy. I usually make a one pot meal out of it by adding bok choy, garlic, ginger and mushrooms to the ground pork and tofu.

It's one of my favorite dishes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As mention in my previous post, my version is unorthodox. Here is a picture of the one I made last month. I threw in a Chinese eggplant that was left in the bottom of my fridge. It's fusion: Fish fragrant eggplant and mapo tofu! Most of the sauce had settled to the bottom of the dish.

1tofu4512.jpg

I also like to throw in fresh mint - for any spicy dishes I make.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The recipe cited is almost exactly how I make mine, but it comes out dry unless I up the amount of stock and it still lacks something. I think I may try some new brands of black bean and chili paste.

Go to Dinho market in ATL Chinatown. They carry Pixian toban jian. It's in a clear flat plastic pack with red chinese letters. On the barely legible writing on the back it says something on the order of "chili paste with broad beans" or something to that effect. It's normally in the semi refrigerated section near the vegetables.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I threw in a Chinese eggplant that was left in the bottom of my fridge. It's fusion: Fish fragrant eggplant and mapo tofu! Most of the sauce had settled to the bottom of the dish.

I also like to throw in fresh mint - for any spicy dishes I make.

You've made me hungry! I forgot that in addition to the bok choy and mushrooms I have often used eggplant. When I serve it I put it over spaghetti.


Edited by mbhank (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always liked Joyce Jue's version of ma po tofu. It's made with ground pork. I cook a recipe from one of Joyce's classes. It contains a generous dose of ground roasted Szechuan peppercorns (1 1/2 tsp), in addition to the white pepper.

The recipe (without the Szechuan peppercorn) is here:

http://community.cookinglight.com/showthread.php?t=78660


Edited by djyee100 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

no one mentions the ma po tofu recipe by hzrt8w

Ma Po Tofu

This is a great pictorial with lots of comments - worth checking

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think mapo dofu is one of those comfort foods that if you ask 20 folks for their favorite recipes, you get 50 versions. I started back in the '70s with Robt. Delf's classic, refining, refining, refining over the years until my notes became illegible. Part of this is because many ingredients and brands have changed over the years (Delf mentions that chicken blood was used as a thickener - which makes sense, as who had cornstarch in China back in the day?). More importantly, everyone's recipe is based on their tastes and what's available to them.

Hot and Sour Soup is also a classic comfort food that has no definitive "recipe".


Edited by ojisan (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...I started back in the '70s with Robt. Delf's classic...

I was curious about Delfs' recipe and found it online. Or so the recipe credits Delfs' book. Sounds like a good one. I like that touch of fermented black bean. The recipe, with some anonymous editorial comment, is here:

http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/asia/chinese/ma-po-dou-fu1.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I made this today for lunch, using the Fuchsia Dunlop recipe, which I had downloaded from the Penguin UK website linked to in the second post of this thread. For those familiar with the recipe, a question: one of the ingredients is shown as "3 tablespoons potato flour mixed with 4 tablespoons cold water"-- is this right? If so, what is meant by "potato flour"? Potato flour is extremely sticky stuff-- 4 tablespoons of water produces a heavy dough (as I had expected, but I try to follow recipes the first time); 4 cups of water would probably still produce too thick a mixture. Is this ingredient what some would call "potato starch" (similar to cornstarch or tapioca starch)? It still seems like a lot for the dish; I used 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch with about half a cup of water, which worked pretty well (I had to add about another 1/4 cup of water to get the thickness of the sauce right).

I used pork instead of beef, which is always the way I've had ma po tofu; and instead of using ground pork (I hadn't bought any), I chose to take "minced" literally and minced the 150g of meat with a chef's knife rather than getting the grinder dirty. I liked the texture of the result. (I suspect that "minced" vs. "ground" is a UK:US translation issue, as may be the "potato flour"/"potato starch" distinction.)

For the ground chile component I used 1 teaspoon of what is probably a much milder ingredient, some Indian ground Kashmiri chile; that, along with the chile in the chile bean paste produced the right level of heat for my taste.

The dish turned out well. My thanks to the various posters for their efforts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My copy says 4T cornstarch to 6T water, I believe, and references potato starch, but concludes that cornstarch is more easily obtainable in the West.

I use pork too, and it's one of my favorite recipes on earth. I've been eating quite a lot of it lately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen a couple of mapo dofu recipes that tell you to simmer the tofu in water before adding it to the dish. What does this do? At home, we've always just added it directly to the dish.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I just put it right in like you do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

no one mentions the ma po tofu recipe by hzrt8w

Ma Po Tofu

This is a great pictorial with lots of comments - worth checking

Thanks for the link, Heidi. This is the one I use. I cut back a little bit on the Szechuan peppercorn, but otherwise I do it exactly as written. As my fellow Michigander Tony the Tiger would say, "It's Grrreat!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen a couple of mapo dofu recipes that tell you to simmer the tofu in water before adding it to the dish. What does this do? At home, we've always just added it directly to the dish.

I've always thought this was about thoroughly heating the tofu before it hits the wok so you don't have to move it around to heat it through and risk breaking it up too much. I don't do it either, but I use silken tofu so I'm not going to risk even that. I try to let the tofu come up to room temp if I remember (I never do).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As mentioned earlier, member hzrt8w has done a great pictorial on ma po and other dishes. Here is the link to the index of dishes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lots of great advice here, I too can't wait to try some of it out.

I have been using this along with some fermented black beans (although I think there are some in that sauce). I'm generally OK with handling heat, but this sauce seems like too much. I'm using less and less each time and I think it's slowly causing me to tamper too much with other ingredients to balance it out. Maybe it's time to experiment with another sauce. Has anyone else used the Koon Yick soy chilli sauce?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known  for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      AFter lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our seranade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Yea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs.
      We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
    • By liuzhou
      These have been mentioned a couple of times recently on different threads and I felt they deserved one of their own. After all, they did keep me alive when I lived in Xi'an.
       
      Rou jia mo (ròu jiá mò; literally "Meat Sandwich") are Chinese sandwiches which originated in Shaanxi Province, but can be found all over China. Away from their point of origin, they tend to be made with long stewed pork belly. However in Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi), there is a large Muslim population so the meat of choice is more usually beef. In nearby Gansu Province, lamb or mutton is more likely.
       
      When I was living in Xi'an in 1996-1997, I lived on these. I was living on campus in North-West University (西北大学) and right outside the school gate was a street lined with cheap food joints, most of which would serve you one. I had one favourite place which I still head to when I visit. First thing I do when I get off the train.
       
      What I eat is Cumin Beef Jia Mo (孜然牛肉夹馍 zī rán niú ròu jiá mò). The beef is stir fried or BBQd with cumin and mild green peppers. It is also given a bit of a kick with red chill flakes.
       
      Here is a recipe wrested from the owner of my Xi'an favourite. So simple, yet so delicious.
       

      Lean Beef
       
      Fairly lean beef is cut into slivers
       

      Chopped Beef (sorry about the picture quality - I don't know what happened)
       

      Chopped garlic
       
      I use this single clove garlic from Sichuan, but regular garlic does just fine.
       
      The beef and garlic are mixed in a bowl and generously sprinkled with ground cumin. This is then moistened with a little light soy sauce. You don't want to flood it. Set aside for as long as you can.
       

      Mild Green Chilli Pepper
       
      Take one or two mild green peppers and crush with the back of a knife, then slice roughly. You could de-seed if you prefer. I don't bother.
       

      Chopped Green Pepper
       
      Fire up the wok, add oil (I use rice bran oil) and stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is just done. 
       

      Frying Tonight
       
      Then add the green peppers and fry until they are as you prefer them. I tend to like them still with a bit of crunch, so slightly under-cook them
       

      In with the peppers
       
      You will, of course, have prepared the bread. The sandwiches are made with a type of flat bread known as 白吉饼 (bái jí bǐng; literally "white lucky cake-shape"). The ones here are store bought but I often make them. Recipe below.
       

      Bai Ji Bing
       
      Take one and split it. Test the seasoning of the filling, adding salt if necessary. It may not need it because of the soy sauce. 
       

      Nearly there
       
      Cover to make a sandwich  and enjoy. You will see that I have used a bunch of kitchen paper to hold the sandwich and to soak up any escaping juices. But it should be fairly dry.
       

      The final product.
       
      Note: I usually cook the meat and pepper in batches. Enough for one sandwich per person at a time. If we need another (and we usually do) I start the next batch. 
       
       
      Bread Recipe
       
       
      350g plain flour
      140ml water
      1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

      Mix the yeast with the flour and stir in the water. Continue stirring until a dough forms. Knead until smooth. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise by about one third. (maybe 30-40 minutes).
       
      Knead again to remove any air then roll the dough into a log shape around 5cm in diameter, then cut into six portions. Press these into a circle shape using a rolling pin. You want to end up with 1.5cm thick buns. 
       
      Preheat oven to 190C/370F.
       
      Dry fry the buns in a skillet until they take on some colour about a minute or less on each side, then finish in the oven for ten minutes. Allow to cool before using.
    • By Chris Hennes
      I just got a copy of Grace Young's "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge"—I enjoyed cooking from "Breath of a Wok" and wanted to continue on that path. Does anyone else have this book? Have you cooked anything from it?

      Here was dinner tonight:

      Spicy Dry-Fried Beef (p. 70)

      I undercooked the beef just a bit due to a waning propane supply (I use an outdoor propane-powered wok burner), but there's nothing to complain about here. It's a relatively mild dish that lets the flavors of the ingredients (and the wok) speak. Overall I liked it, at will probably make it again (hopefully with a full tank of gas).


    • By liuzhou
      We are all used to unami now. Maybe it's time to consider gan. Particularly found in teas, but also in other foods. An interesting article from a great magazine.
       
      Going, going gan
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×