Food & Travel

Mapo tofu

(Yalun Tu for The Boston Globe)
By Yalun Tu
Globe Correspondent / October 27, 2010

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Serves 4

Buy Sichuan pepper whole. Dry roast it in a skillet (without oil) until aromatic. Then cool and grind into a powder. Or buy Sichuan pepper already ground into a powder at a Chinese market. To add rice wine to a wok or skillet, pour it along the sides, rather than pouring it directly onto the food. This gives the best flavor.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon chili bean paste or Chinese chili sauce, or to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 piece (1 inch) fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili powder or cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (or substitute pale dry sherry or dry white wine)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 pound soft or medium tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, or to taste
Salt, to taste
1. Heat a skillet or wok over medium-high heat 10 seconds. Add the oil and heat for 10 seconds.

2. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Turn the heat to low. Add the bean paste or chili sauce, garlic, and ginger. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the chili powder or cayenne pepper, chicken stock, rice wine, and soy sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high. When the sauce begins to bubble, add the tofu. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tofu is heated through.

4. Return the beef to the pan. Add the scallions and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt.

5. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with Sichuan pepper. Serve with rice. Adapted from Da Ping Huo