Today I cooked my first tofu (or in Chinese dòufu) dish. I added beef, let there be no confusion.
On a recent obsessive book buying trip I was delighted to come across the book ‘Chinese food made easy’ by Ching He Huang. I watched the show when it was on the BBC a few years ago and used to print and cook recipes from the BBC food website. The egg fried rice was by far the messiest.
I came across a Ma-po dofu beef recipe in the book and got a little intrigued. Mápó dòufu (麻婆豆腐) is tofu in chilli bean sauce, a popular dish from Sichuan province (so quite spicy). The first time I ate it in China I was positively surprised. I’ve had it a few times since, but had not yet seen it with beef (hence the intrigue).
The word mápó translates to ‘old woman with a pockmarked face’ apparently describing the complexion of the lady who first served it in her restaurant. I’m not sure if she would have been happy to have the dish named after her.
Tofu 101: get soy milk, water and a coagulant (curdling agent). Dissolve coagulant (such an impressive word) in water and stir into boiled soy milk until mixture curdles into something. Different coagulants (salt, acid or enzyme) produce different textures and depending on how much water you press back out, you can make soft, firm or extra firm tofu. If you do this correctly it should look something like the above which I of course bought already coagulated by the man who does that.
And here you were thinking tofu was boring vegetarian food.
My favorite and ever-present Chinese ingredients: ginger, chilli and garlic.
Low fat, low calorie, high protein and high iron. Who’s laughing now.
And then there are varieties of processed tofu of which stinky tofu (chòu dòufu, 臭豆腐) is probably the most well known. It is a soft tofu that has been fermented in brine. You can smell it everywhere in the old town of Suzhou (and probably all over China). I’ve been too chicken to try it so far, but one day I will muster all my courage. The smell is absolutely horrendous but apparently it tastes delightful.