In Sichuan Cookery, Fuschia Dunlop writes the following about this aromatic, typical Sichuan dish.
“Ma po dou fu is named after the smallpox-scarred wife of a Qing Dynasty restaurateur. She is said to have prepared this spicy, aromatic, oily dish for labourers who laid down their loads of cooking oil to eat lunch on their way to the city’s market. It’s one of the most famous Sichuan dishes, and epitomizes Sichuan’s culinary culture, with its fiery peasant cooking and bustling private restaurants”
Ingredients (serves 4):
4 spring onions, sliced
100ml groundnut oil
150gm minced beef or pork – optional
2½ tbsp Sichuanese chilli bean paste
2 tsp ground Sichuanese chillies
1 tbsp black fermented beans
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
potato flour or corn starch
½ tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper
1. Dice the beancurd and place in hot slightly salted water.
2. Heat the oil in a wok. Fry the meat if using until crispy.
3. Over a medium heat add the chilli bean paste and stir for a few seconds until the aroma is released. Add the beans and ground chillies and stir fry for around 30 seconds and the oil has turned a deep red.
4. Add the stock and drained beancurd. Move it around the work gently – do not stir otherwise the beancurd may disintegrate. Add the sugar, soy sauce and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the curd has absorbed the flavours of the sauce.
5. Add the onions and thicken the sauce with potato flour.
Serve with a sprinkling of ground Sichuan pepper.