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Doodad

Ma Po done right

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Finding good huajiao (Sichuan peppercorn) is hard -- even here, where we have a wealth of Chinese markets catering to a mostly Asian clientele (and even in China, for that matter). I have heard that some of the Asian supermarket brands are dyed pink - if the pink color leaches out in water after about 15 minutes, this may be the case. A friend recommended trying the Chinese herb store vs. a supermarket. The numbing taste of the finished dish should be pretty intense -- the version of this dish without pork is called mala doufu (i.e., numbing-spicy tofu), and I heard someone say once that the dish should be numbing, spicy, salty, and sweet in that order. If the pins and needles sensation isn't taking over your mouth for a good 10-20 seconds or more after each bite, add more huajiao.

For the chili / broad bean paste, what you want is dòubànjiàng (豆瓣酱), and I would actually go to the trouble of finding a Sichuan style one, preferably made in Sichuan (though I've tried some made in Taiwan ones as well, and this is a good route to go if you want to avoid products produced in Mainland China). I would avoid Lee Kum Kee if possible, despite it being widely available. They will vary in ingredients and spiciness level. The fermented black beans (douchi) are something different. Most authentic recipes I've seen don't seem to add them.

http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/sichuan-chilli-bean-paste/

has a summary of what to look for, and mentions a few specific brands.

Also, is "chili bean sauce" the same thing as "soy chilli sauce"?

English names can vary quite a bit... the English name of the sauce is less important than what it actually is. If you post a closer-up view of the label, with the Chinese name and / or ingredients, that would be more helpful.


Edited by Will (log)

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English names can vary quite a bit... the English name of the sauce is less important than what it actually is. If you post a closer-up view of the label, with the Chinese name and / or ingredients, that would be more helpful.

xR5zGs.jpg

Ingredients: red pepper, red pepper powder, soy sauce, fermented black beans, soy oil, sugar, garlic, flavor enhancer (E621)

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So i happen to be in lhasa tibet right now and there is a decent sized food market with spices and lots of huajiao. I picked up a couple cups of the peppers because i want to work on sichuan cooking when i return. This thread makes me think i should pick up even more. Hw long does this dried pepper keep and how much is typical to use? One stall had two different varieties that seemed to smell the same. Oe was slightly more pink. Any major difference there?

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So i happen to be in lhasa tibet right now and there is a decent sized food market with spices and lots of huajiao. I picked up a couple cups of the peppers because i want to work on sichuan cooking when i return. This thread makes me think i should pick up even more. Hw long does this dried pepper keep and how much is typical to use? One stall had two different varieties that seemed to smell the same. Oe was slightly more pink. Any major difference there?

Whole, they last for about a year or two. Toasted and then ground, 3 - 6 months.

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there is a brand of huajiao preserved in oil that is imported in to the US. Lasts forever and is the most potent.

If you have a Japanese super market near you you can probably find the premade Japanese version of mapo dofu in retort packs.

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Something that really makes Ma Po more restaurant-like is to use restaurant quantities of oil. I often use less at home, but using more oil definitely improves the dish. I have a round-bottomed wok and I'd say when I make it with less oil, the puddle of oil at the center of the wok has a diameter of about 2.5 inches, whereas the higher amount would have about double that. You can also use a mix of regular oil and chile oil, and add some huajiao oil at the end if super fresh huajiao is not available to you.

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... Whole, they last for about a year or two. Toasted and then ground, 3 - 6 months.

Or, (toast &) grind, wet through with vinegar, fry in ample oil till all water driven off, and have your very own 'keeps forever' paste.

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I think properly, the white and green parts of garlic shoots (green garlic) are used in mapo doufu, rather than leek or green onion. Baby leeks could be used, but they are tougher, so they don't have quite the same texture, even when cooked a bit longer.

You can see a picture on the right side here at this link, as well as some interesting information in the comments.

http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/the-joys-of-garlic/

Salient points:

1) While the Sichuanese call these 'suànmiáo' (蒜苗), many other areas refer to them as qīng suàn (青蒜). When I've found them at a local market, the Chinese says 蒜苗 (which they also seem to use for garlic scapes, aka suàn tái (蒜薹), but the English description says 'Taiwan Leek'.

2) If it's possible to find them, it will probably be somewhat seasonal -- I would say the things you want are actually harder to find in the US than garlic scapes. I'm not sure if it's a different species of garlic (there are certainly many), or just different stages in the life cycle.

If your garlic hasn't been treated to prevent / slow down sprouting, you can sprout it (especially garlic that's already starting to sprout) at home in some water, but they'll probably be much smaller.

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