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And so it comes to an end…

In Part 0 of How to Make Tofu That Doesn’t Suck, we looked at all the things you can do to prep your tofu before cooking.  Part 1 covered baking it, Part 2 deep frying it.  Part 3 examined how to stir fry tofu.  Part 4 was a list of sauces that go well with toful.

And now we are ready for the conclusion.  The grand finale…it’s Ma Po Tofu.

Ma po tofu (which is Chinese for so good you smack your mother POW! Okay, not really, it’s probably named after a Chinese street vendor named Ma who was probably fictious) is a traditional Sichuan dish that is made with tofu, ground pork, and a lot of chilis, including the infamous Sichuan peppercorns.

However, for me, this dish will always be special because it was the first Chinese meal I ate after becoming vegetarian.  It was so good and yet it didn’t have any meat…

So, I pretty much decided I had to learn how to cook it.  Instead of pork, I decided to go with seitan which has lead to this…

Ma Po Tofu

  • 1 block of extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
  • 4 Sichuan chilies
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger, minced
  • 4 spring onions, whites sliced and the greens cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 package of seitan, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of broth
  • 1 tablespoon of Sichuan hot bean paste
  • 2 tablespoons of corn starch

Okay, let’s start with a couple of notes.  First, yes the recipe is correct.  Use extra firm tofu.  Traditionally it is made with soft tofu, but I think by now you know what I think of soft tofu.

Secondly, substitutions.  If you do not have Sichuan peppercorns (available at Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, but not at my local Asian market (?!)), omit.  Regular peppercorns are not the same.  Secondly, if you do not have Sichuan bean paste…go to the Asian market.  It is pretty much the key to this dish tasting right.

Okay, back to the recipe:

Press the tofu, cut it into 1/2 inch cubes, and prepare using your favorite method.  If you are in a hurry, you do not even need to press it, but of course, it makes the tofu taste better.

In a wok, roast the peppercorns until they become fragrant (about 1 minute) and remove from the wok.  Grind.  Dry roast the chilies until they turn brown and remove.  Smash in a food processor.

Add the peanut oil to the wok and let it get very hot.  Add the sliced spring onion whites, garlic and ginger to the wok.  Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the seitan and stir fry for another 2 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, broth, Sichuan hot bean paste, androasted chilies, and bring to a boil.  Add the tofu into the wok and let it cook for 2-3 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with the corn starch to create a slurry.   Add that to the wok and stir until the sauce becomes thick.

Garnish with spring onion greens and Sichuan peppercorns.

Enjoy!

And this concludes my five (really six part series) on how to make tofu not suck.  I am going to be taking these posts, adding some pictures, and adding a few more recipes.   Who knows, I might even proofread.  Then I’ll turn all that into a PDF and put on the site for print and download.  More on that later!  Until then, start making tofu that doesn’t suck!

This is a little trick I have used many times when trying to remove fats and oils from cooking healthy.  Instead of sauteing in oil, many types of food can be sauted in broth or stock or soy sauce.  The liquid, especially if it is contains a little bit of fat, will prevent the food from burning and will act as a medium of transfer.

To do this:

  1. Heat the skillet and add enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pan 1/8 to 1/4 inch high.  That should be less than a quarter of a cup.
  2. Add the food and cook as normal.   

Now, the texture of the finished product will be different.  The broth or stock is not going to crisp up the food being sauted like an oil would, but it is going to be much lower in fat and, for many dishes, the cooking liquid will add flavor.

Other Tips About Oil

Whenever possible, cook with heart healthy oils like olive oil.  Olive oil contains a good amount of fat, but doctors have shown how the fats from olive oils can be good for the body when taken in small doses.  So no matter which oil is used,  keep the amount of oil to a bare minimum.

When eating out, ask the chefs to limit the amount of oil they use or eliminate it entirely.  One of my personal vices is Chinese food, but it is heavy and fatty, even the non-deep fried items.  I have taken to asking the chef to make the dishes without oil.  They tend to look a little puzzeled at first, but then prepare a dish that tastes almost exactly like the heavy, oily dish.