Thursday, 3 February 2011

Happy New Year (yes, again)

Last weekend was my first Chinese New Year do - Gung hay fat choy! To feed my many hungry guests I made a vast mountain of Chinese food which, to my relief, disappeared by the end of the night. I find it a bit tedious having to find space in the fridge for leftovers.

Alongside homemade prawn dumplings and a vegan jai (recipe to follow soon...) was this spicy Ma Po Do Fu, which packs one heck of a kick. I've never added so much chilli paste to a dish in my life! It smelt wonderful but dangerous...there was a sort of a malignant quality to it as it bubbled a deep, volcanic red on the stove. If ever a dish were plotting something behind your back, it would be this one.

This recipe is an adaptation from Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop, a Christmas present that has been a fixture on my bedside table since I received it.


1 block of cotton (firm) beancurd (about 500g)
4 large spring onions
100ml vegetable oil
2½ tbsp Szechuanese chilli bean paste
1 tbsp black fermented beans, chopped
5 whole dried chillies, seeds removed and the shells crumbled
250ml vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp soy sauce
3 tbsp cornflour mixed with
4 tbsp cold water
½ tsp ground roasted Szechuan pepper

1) Cut the beancurd into 2cm cubes and leave to steep in very hot or gently simmering water which you have lightly salted. Slice the leeks or spring onions at a steep angle into thin 'horse-ear' slices.

2) Heat the frying pan or wok, then add the vegetable oil and over a medium heat add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the oil is a rich red colour. Add the black fermented beans and crumbled chillies and stir-fry for another 20-30 seconds until they are both fragrant and the chillies have added their colour to the oil.

3) Pour in the stock, stir well and add the drained beancurd. Mix it in very gently then season with the sugar and a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the beancurd has absorbed the flavours of the sauce.

4) Add the spring onions and gently stir in. When they are just cooked, add the cornflour mixture in two or three stages, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to cling glossily to the beancurd. Finally, pour everything into a deep bowl, scatter with the ground Sichuan pepper and serve.

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