Archive for the ‘meat’ Category

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saliva chicken (kou shui ji)

May 1, 2020

NO, there is NO spit in this!

“Mouthwatering” and “saliva” definitely don’t have the same connotation in English.

Literal translations are great.

Don’t be turned off by the name. Call it MOUTHWATERING CHICKEN if you prefer. If you like the combination of savory, sweet, sour, and spicy in your Chinese food, this is DEFINITELY a recipe to try!

Without a doubt my new favorite chicken salad…. and NO mayonnaise! Adding this to my “rotation” tag! Thanks to the mala market for this fantastic recipe.

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2 pounds chicken breasts or thighs
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 teaspoon kosher salt
chili oil (with lots of flakes)**
4 tablespoons chicken juices from steaming, cooled
3 tablespoons Zhenjiang rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons Chinese soy sauce
2 teaspoons Chinese sesame paste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons Sichuan pepper oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan pepper (see note)
Garnish of crushed roasted peanuts, roasted sesame seeds and scallion

– Prepare chicken however you like. Traditionally, you would pour Shaoxing wine, grated ginger, and salt over the chicken, and steam for thirty minutes. (I reseasoned my cast iron, so I roasted it on super high heat with Shaoxing wine.)

– Mix together the ingredients for the sauce: chili oil with flakes, chicken juices, vinegar, sugar, soy sauce, sesame paste, sesame oil, Sichuan pepper oil and ground Sichuan pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.

– Pour sauce over cold chicken. I served this with Chinese style rice noodles, like a cold chicken and pasta salad.

** quantity of chili oil depends heavily on how spicy your batch is! If you’re using a mild chili oil from a bottle, you could probably add the half-cup this recipe initially called for. I used my own extremely spicy homemade chili oil, and a quarter-cup was more than sufficient!

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another winning recipe from the mala market (and adapted by siggi at friedsig)

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Something about the toasted sesame paste combined with chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns is… well… mouthwatering. Literally. My mouth is watering just thinking about it…

Chicken salads are great for so many reasons. Great for meal prep – it keeps well in the fridge, and travels well to work or school. Chicken is a very affordable source of protein. & my favorite reason – chicken salads are SO adaptable. Mayo, plain yogurt, leftover vinaigrette, chili oil…. dried or fresh fruit… seeds, nuts… a great way to use up the last pinch of something in your pantry. Plus, who doesn’t love having a backup meal in your fridge for those days you suddenly realize you only have twenty minutes before you have to leave the house?

If you prefer a more American style chicken salad, can I recommend this extremely popular and healthy chicken salad with spinach, apple, and dill?

If you hate healthy, this honey mustard chicken salad is just like the one from the deli section of the grocery store!

If you’re dairy-free, but don’t like chili oil, try this dairy-free coconut lime cilantro chicken salad: extremely creamy and rich, and very popular with my friends’ kids!

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anita’s meatloaf

March 17, 2020

Did you ever mean to type “meatloaf” but you type “meatload” instead?

I think this is why most people don’t like meatloaf.
Not because of a typo.
Because most meatloaf is just a meatload. Dense, dry, almost painful to eat. Flavorless. Just a load of meat. Without oats or breadcrumbs to bind, veggies to add textural interest, moisture in the form of some condiments inside the loaf, and onions and garlic for flavor, meatloaf can be downright unpleasant.

This meatloaf is different. It is everything I like – sweet, savory, and filling. The meat is kept moist by condiments. Of course, you can use a classic ketchup, but I love the complexity of barbecue sauce, apricot jam, worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, or mustard.

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my version:

– saute carrots on a med-high heat
– after a while, add minced onions, sour apples, peppers, or whatever you have
– when caramelized, add garlic. turn off the heat when everything is caramelized.
– separately, in a large bowl, add
+ a pound of ground chicken to a half a pound of pork or very fatty beef (like 75/25)
+ a large egg or two small eggs
+ breadcrumbs (maybe a half-cup or so; can use oats, gluten-free cracker crumbs, or anything similar)
+ apricot jam, unsweetened applesauce, mustard, or barbecue sauce to taste. more than you’d think, around a half-cup
+ something savory, like a few drops of fish sauce or worcestershire sauce
+ a handful of dried fruit (apricots, raisins, whatever) and chopped nuts (whatever you have, pistachio or almond)
+ spices – lots of garlic powder, smoked paprika, ground black pepper – or get creative!

my mom’s version:

“I don’t actually have a recipe for the one I make at home frequently…..it’s just a lb. of ground chicken (I like it better than turkey), an egg, about a cup of bread crumbs, about ½ to 1 c. of BBQ sauce to which I add a few chopped dried cranberries and commonly a couple of pinches of smoked paprika. – all of which I mix with sautéed and cooled: ½ large or 1 medium finely chopped onion (sautéed until translucent), 1 or 2 finely chopped celery stalks, and a few finely chopped carrots. I do it differently depending on what I have in the house. In the past I’ve substituted Saucy Susan for the BBQ sauce and I’ve added sautéed sweet potatoes. I bake it in a moderate oven for about 40 min. If I have bacon in the house, I’ll lay that on top before baking.” -Anita

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WHAT TEMPERATURE?

325 = ina garten, alton brown

350 = ellie at food network, betty crocker, spend with pennies, the neelys, brown eyed baker

375 = paula deen

400 = mar-mar-stew-stew, the kansas beef council

425 = bobby flay

if you like a soft meatloaf, go with a lower temperature. if you like a crust, go for a higher temperature. as you can see, everyone has a different preference, and there is no “wrong” temperature for a meatloaf!

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MEATLOAF TIPS:
– DON’T OVERMIX! #1 easiest way to mess up a meatloaf. think of it like a burger – it’ll get weird if you smush it too much.
– let it rest after pulling it from the oven, like a steak or any other meat. cutting it too early will encourage the juices to leave, making a dry meatloaf.
– like the crust the best? form the meatloaf free-form on a baking sheet. you get crust on the top and sides, too! make sure to bump up the oven temp to 400.
– hate the crust? make it in a loaf pan, and leave the heat low, like 325.
– watching your calories? DON’T go with 100% lean turkey meat without at least a little fat, or it will come out dense. you can still make a very healthy meatloaf with just a bit of beef.
– if you’re making it super lean, you can soak bread in milk or veggie stock, and use that instead of breadcrumbs to bind the loaf. that will help keep it from drying out.
– think of texture when you’re planning the veggies. roasted sweet potato adds moisture, nuts and seeds add crunchy textural interest. caramelize some carrots, and leave some less cooked for the consistency.
– don’t skimp on the sauteed veggies! they add moisture, flavor, and texture!
– pan-fry slices of leftover meatloaf for an amazing sandwich.
(tips from my own experience, and bread-soaking tip from the today show)

WHAT IF I DON’T LIKE SWEET?
– instead of apricot jam, use mustard, worcestershire, a little fish paste and hot sauce, or another savory condiment. leave out the dried fruit.
– substitute carrots and apples with more savory vegetables, like fennel, cauliflower, grated cabbage, or mushrooms.
– use savory spices. this recipe is totally flexible, and just as good with cumin and chipotle as with smoked paprika and thyme, or hot chilis and green onions. get creative!

MIX IT UP:
– caramelize onions in cider vinegar or a splash of apple juice or honey for sweetness – or add a pinch of baking soda to get them to caramelize faster, according to cook’s illustrated
– go with a theme for the seasoning. curry powder, cashews, and apples? thyme, dijon mustard, and sausage? roasted poblanos, jalapenos, bell peppers, and chili powder for a four-pepper meatloaf? moroccan spice blend? peanuts and sweet potatoes? oregano, thyme, basil, and a little spaghetti sauce? the only limit is your imagination!
– replace some of the ground chicken with ground turkey. replace the ground pork with ground beef or sausage. replace some of the chicken with sauteed mushrooms.
– cook’s illustrated turkey meatloaf calls for a half-cup of grated Parmesan and 3T melted butter mixed into the turkey meat for texture and flavor – but they say never use 99% lean meat, as it will become “pasty” or “mushy and compact” when cooked – they recommend 85% lean

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How does your family make their meatloaf?

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easy shawarma-spiced roasted chicken

January 16, 2020

Simple go-to weeknight roasted chicken recipe.

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

just combine the spices, mix with the oil, pour over chicken, and bake your favorite way

I like getting the oven pre-heated (425 or 450; any lower and the chicken will bake pale and won’t roast,) starting the cast-iron over med-high heat, and scorching the skin until it shrinks up a bit.
Then I flip the thighs, and finish off in the oven. Depending on the size of the thighs, you may only need 10 to 15 minutes in the oven!

adapted by friedsig from Rhoda Boone via bon appetit

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They say to serve with pita, a cucumber-tomato salad with red onion, and a simple tahini-yogurt sauce. I ate it with my fingers, dipped in a tahini-yogurt-lemon-garlic sauce similar to her recipe here. The spices were very subtle – nothing a picky eater would reject – not spicy, or strongly spiced – just a little something different to mix up your roasted chicken routine. For my taste, I would probably double the spices next time, and definitely add the cucumber-tomato salad. And, hey, if you’re too broke or too lazy to eat it with pita, just say you’re being gluten-free and paleo and keto! I’m not broke; I’m just “watching my macros”!

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beef rendang (indonesian / malaysian coconut beef)

January 9, 2020

This is a big YES! One of the best beef dishes I know. Just a warning that if you use a cheap, lean beef roast, this might take three to five hours of simmering to become “fork-tender”. The beef was tough after being simmered for only an hour, so I gave it another two hours, and it started to really soften up like brisket. If your meat is lean, try doing this in your slow-cooker. (I don’t own a slow cooker, so I just used a big dutch oven style pot, and it was fine!)

Spice Paste:
3/4 cup grated coconut (I used less, because I used a thicker style of coconut strip instead of a grated coconut)
15 dried chillies (I used about eight and I’d definitely 100% recommend a few more. 15 probably sounds right.)
10 shallots, sliced (I used one. Shallots are expensive.)
4 cloves garlic, sliced (I used five or six to compensate for less shallots.)
1 inch ginger (20 g), sliced
1 inch galangal (20 g), sliced (I omitted this)
1 inch turmeric (10 g), sliced
2 stalks lemon grass, sliced (I used dried old lemongrass and the flavor was not strong.)
4-6 bird chillies, optional

chunk of beef, 1-1.5lb., sliced into one or two inch chunks

1 stick cinnamon, about 2-inch length
3 cloves
3 star anise
3 cardamom pods
tamarind paste or pulp
6 finely sliced kaffir lime leaves (I left these out and they were fine.)
rock sugar or palm sugar (or regular sugar)
6 T toasted coconut (I used larger dried coconut strips, toasted in an unoiled skillet)
1 c coconut milk, plus 1 c water poured into the coconut milk can to use the solids
(optional) one turmeric leaf tied into a knot (I used one from my plant and the flavor was great. Recommended.)
salt to taste

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1. Blend spice paste ingredients. You can use a mortar and pestle, blender, food processor, or, if you have to, the side of your knife.

2. Heat the oil in a stew pot, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and cardamom and stir-fry until aromatic. Add the beef and the pounded lemongrass and stir for 1 minute. Add the coconut milk, tamarind juice, water, and simmer on medium heat, stirring frequently until the meat is almost cooked. Add the kaffir lime leaves, kerisik (toasted coconut), sugar or palm sugar, stirring to blend well with the meat.

3. Lower the heat to low, cover the lid, and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the meat is really tender and the gravy has dried up. Add more salt and sugar to taste. Serve immediately with steamed rice. The leftovers are great frozen or packed away for the rest of the week.

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adapted from a few versions, mostly the rasa malaysia and serious eats versions

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If you eat beef, this should absolutely be on your list of special occasion dishes, to eat for birthdays or just to cheer yourself up during a long cold winter. The smell of beef rendang simmering, and the warmth of it on your stovetop, is powerful enough to beat back the winter blues. Sweet, sour, spicy, savory, creamy… this dish is everything. Perfect for a long, lazy January weekend.

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pan-roasted juniper and garlic brined pork chop

October 8, 2019

Pork chops are perfect seared off with just salt and pepper in a pan. However, if you want to boost the flavor of a pork chop with some sauerbraten-inspired spices, brining is an easy overnight treatment.

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Make the brine! Combine water with salt, sugar, a teaspoon of juniper berries, a pinch of whole black peppercorns, and a few cloves of raw garlic sliced in half. You can add a pinch of whole coriander seeds and allspice berries, and a few sprigs of thyme if you have them. I added some fennel seeds, too.

Heat in saucepan til simmering, then shut off heat.

When cool, pour over pork chops. refrigerate marinated pork chops 8-12 hrs.

The next day, preheat pan with grease or oil on stove top. If chops are thick, preheat oven, too, to 450.

Pan-sear dried chops over medium-high heat until pork chops develop some nice caramelization. Just a few minutes. turn up the heat if they turn gray instead of brown. If the chops are very thick, leave chops in pan and shove them in the oven for a few minutes or until they register at a temperature you’re comfortable with. Thin chops will easily reach a safe temperature on the stove in no time – don’t overcook.

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recipe by Brian Leth, from bon appetit, adapted here by friedsig

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The brine definitely flavored the pork chop. I would do this again. Served with cast-iron roasted fennel root and apple with caramelized onion and sage. Definitely tastes like fall. Sweet, comforting, and just complex enough. Has a subtle gin/sauerbraten flavor from the juniper and spices.

This adds some really nice German flavors to your Oktoberfest meal. Lower in sodium than knackwurst or brats, and (at least in my area) way more affordable. Don’t forget the Black Forest sweet-and-sour red cabbage or sweet-and-sour beet salad, German-style potato salad, and some good carbs like knäckerbrot and soft pretzels.

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lemon meatballs with tahini sauce

October 2, 2019

These meatballs are packed with middle Eastern flavor. Definitely not your everyday boring meatballs! Thanks to Shabnam of Cooking and Cooking for this recipe – click to check out her photos!

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MEATBALLS:

650 g extra lean ground beef
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1 medium onion, grated
3 garlic cloves, minced
vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt and pepper to taste

TAHINI SAUCE:
1/2 cup tahini
4 tablespoons lemon juice (or more depends on your taste)
salt
enough water to thin the mixture

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mix the meatballs, pan-fry, and bake at 350 until done.

separately, mix ingredients for tahini sauce. don’t cook it! just combine and eat!

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recipe by cooking and cooking

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I made a ton of alterations – no cilantro, no basil, pistachios instead of walnuts – and they were still good. Lately, I have been trying lots of vegan and vegetarian meatballs, like vegetarian buffalo “meatballs”, meatless wild rice and mushroom “meatballs”, and the disappointing polpette (Italian vegetarian “meatballs”). I have found that meatballs do stay together a bit better and are easier to cook all the way through. Usually, with meat, I like it medium rare. However, if your ground meat isn’t so fresh and the idea of a rare burger seems sketchy, pan-frying some meatballs is a great choice. (They came out well-done. Oops. Oh, well. Check ’em often.)

The tahini sauce is great. Not the sauce I would normally think of to eat with meatballs. The texture of the meat was good. I liked the nuts in the meatballs – reminds me of the pine nuts in Lebanese sausage. The turmeric and cinnamon in these quantities are almost sweet. These would be outstanding with all the herbs in them, because it did seem like it was missing something, but I’d still definitely make them again. This recipe is a keeper!

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lu rou fan (滷肉饭, Taiwanese braised pork belly)

August 23, 2019

One of the absolute best recipes of the year. Maybe the best pork belly of all-time? I love you, Woks of Life!

1 lb skin-on pork belly, cut into 1/2” pieces
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 oz. rock sugar (or about 2 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar) (or less is fine, too!)
1 small onion or a couple of shallots, finely chopped
8 shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 cup shaoxing wine
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 cups water
4 hardboiled eggs, peeled (optional)

whole spices:
3 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
6 cloves
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
2 pieces dried tangerine peel
2 slices fresh ginger

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1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and blanch the chopped pork belly for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat the oil in a wok over low heat, and add the sugar. Cook the sugar until it starts to melt and then add the onions. Turn up the heat to medium high and stir-fry the onions for a minute. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another couple minutes.

3. Add the blanched pork, shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and water. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the spices (which should be tied in cheese cloth), along with the peeled hardboiled eggs and turn the heat to the lowest setting. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

4. At this point the meat should be fall-apart tender. To finish the dish, remove the spice packet and turn up the heat to medium high to thicken the sauce, stirring occasionally. This process should take about 5-minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon, but there should still be plenty of it left. Serve over steamed white rice.

by Judy @ the Woks of Life

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These flavors are so complex! The chewy shiitake texture was amazing with the melty sweet pork belly. We ate a ton of this with hot chili oil and rice. The flavors build and layer with every bite! Although these are traditional “five-spice” flavors, it tastes completely different than a five-spice powder without the fennel. It’s really its own unique flavor. The sauce came out thin, since we used low-salt tamari instead of thick dark soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar instead of rock sugar. Still amazing, even without the thick, sweet sauce. Without question a highly recommended dish.

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lebanese sausages

June 17, 2019

1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground mahleb (I substituted star anise ground coarsely in a mortar and pestle)
~2.5 T red wine
1 lb minced pork, lamb, and/or beef (any combination is fine)
2 cloves crushed or minced garlic
~2.5 T lard, bacon grease, or duck fat
~1.5 T pinenuts
sea salt
Aleppo chili or other chili flakes, to taste

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Mash up ingredients. Don’t overmix, or it’ll be crumbly. Let the flavors meld together for about 24 hours. Form into kebabs or patties, or if you want sausage crumbles, break it up in the pan. I love these fried in cast iron. You can bake them, though, or even grill them!

I substituted pork, but I think these would be great with chicken, too (maybe just add a bit more lard, since chicken can be leaner than pork.)

recipe adapted from nine.co.au

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Possibly my favorite homemade sausage, although I also adore maple breakfast sausages and spicy homemade chorizo! The clove and anise meld into something special. I don’t usually have pine nuts in the house, but I did this time, and they were absolutely incredible in this sausage. I cut the pine nuts a bit, from 2.5T to 2T,

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diy chorizo from scratch!

May 20, 2019

Did you know you can make sausage from scratch without casings or any special equipment? I already posted recipes for two different breakfast sausages: sweet maple sausage, and savory sage sausage. But what if you want something fiery and super flavorful? Something to go perfectly with black beans, or paella, or chili, or breakfast tacos? Something to sprinkle on nachos, or queso fundido?

This chorizo, fried up with black beans, eggs over easy, and leftover garlic rice, is a perfect hearty breakfast!

•1/4 pound chiles guajillos (about 14), stems, seeds, and membranes removed
•3/4 cup mild vinegar such as vinagre de pina or diluted unseasoned rice vinegar, or more if needed
•2 pounds coarsely ground pork shoulder
•1/2 pound medium-ground pork fat
•4 large cloves garlic, minced
•1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
•2 teaspoons sea salt
•1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
•1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
•1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

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Soak the chilis in hot water until soft, maybe 15 mins. Drain and puree. Mix all ingredients together.

Here’s the hardest part: you have to wait at least 24 hours before frying and eating them.

I know. It’s cruel. I tried frying up a few bites of it right away, and it just didn’t taste right. 24 hours later, though, the sausage was perfect. If you have the patience to let this cure, you can just fry it right up, in patties or crumbles. No need to buy casings! Amazing with everything from simple gallo pinto to fancy seafood. To be honest, I am watching my budget this month after overspending last month, so I didn’t buy chilis. I used the dried red pepper that my last housemate left behind, and some powdered chili. Surprisingly, the spice blend still made it taste just like chorizo!

recipe by Marilyn Tausend & Ricardo Muñoz Zurita from La Cocina Mexicana

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Thanks for being patient with experimental mixed meat-ea.

Added to the “rotation” tag because this is an amazing way to use the other half-pound of pork when I make mapo tofu!

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mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐)

March 25, 2019

Quest for the perfect mapo tofu!

VERSION 1 – a sweet, Americanized version by Shirley Cheng for epicurious

•1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
•1 1/2 pounds soft (not silken) tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
•2 tablespoons Chinese hot bean paste (also called chili bean sauce)
•1 tablespoon Chinese black-bean paste or sauce
•4 tablespoons oyster sauce (note: this is too much, and will make your dish very, very sweet)
•2 tablespoons Asian chili powder (note: this is clearly too much for most westerners; add a little at first and more to taste)
•1 tablespoon cornstarch
•1/4 cup peanut oil (I mixed in some hot chili oil from dan dan noodles)
•4 ounces ground beef
•1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh ginger, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
•2 cloves garlic, minced
•1 scallion (white and green parts), thinly sliced on diagonal
•1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
•1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), washed, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch slices (about 1/2 cup)
•1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
•1 tablespoon light soy sauce
•1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

recipe by Shirley Cheng for epicurious

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VERSION 2 – from omnivore’s cookbook

•120 grams (4 ounces) ground meat (pork, chicken or turkey)
•2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine (or Japanese Sake)
•1 teaspoon light soy sauce
•1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

For braising
•1 teaspoon cornstarch
•2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (increase to 3 teaspoons if you like your dish extra numbing)
•1 tablespoon vegetable oil
•3 tablespoons Doubanjiang spicy fermented bean paste
•2 tablespoons green onion, chopped (note: I didn’t have any, so I used 2 cloves of garlic)
•1 block (400-g / 14-oz) firm or medium firm tofu , cut into 1.5cm (1/2 inch) squares
•1 cup water or stock
•2 teaspoons Chinese chili oil; 1 teaspoon for a less spicy dish (note: for a mild dan dan noodle chili oil, you will need all 2 teaspoons.)
•1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
•1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
rice or another grain to serve

1. Combine ground meat/veg, cooking wine, soy sauce, and ginger in a bowl. Mix well.

2. Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

3. Cut and prep ingredients.

4. Heat vegetable oil and Sichuan peppercorns in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When the Sichuan peppercorns turn dark brown and crispy, scoop them out with spatula and transfer into a bowl layered with paper towel to soak extra oil. Save to use for garnish the dish.

5. When oil is hot, add ground meat and bean paste. Stir-fry over medium heat with a spatula, until pork is evenly coated with bean paste. Add green onion and stir fry for another minute.

6. Spread tofu evenly on top of ground pork – don’t stir until it braises for a few minutes, so the tofu doesn’t fall apart. Add chili oil, five-spice powder, and sugar. Pour in broth/water and simmer, covered, over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until tofu becomes tender and the sauce has reduced to half the original amount. Taste the tofu with some broth. Adjust seasoning by adding salt. If the dish is too spicy, add another teaspoon of sugar. Gently mix well with spatula.

7. Mix cornstarch water again until fully dissolved and swirl it into the skillet. Gently stir a few times with a spatula, until sauce thickens. Turn off heat and transfer everything to a bowl.

8. Garnish with green onion and Sichuan peppercorns, if using. Serve warm over rice or another grain.

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VERSION 3 – from iron chef chen

1 package silken tofu
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
water, for parboiling tofu

3 ounces ground pork
1⁄2 cup green garlic chives, chopped in 1/2 inches (nira)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chinese chili bean sauce (toubanjan or doubanjiang)
1 tablespoon chinese brown bean sauce (tenmienjan, tenmenjan, or tenmenjiang)
2 teaspoons fermented black beans, chopped finely
1⁄4 – 1⁄2 teaspoon ichimi togarashi pepper or 1/4-1/2 teaspoon japanese dried red chili pepper, minced
1 teaspoon chili oil
3⁄4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon sake or 1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon szechuan peppercorn (optional)

Cornstarch paste: 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon water

Cut tofu into 1 inch cubes. Heat enough water in a large saucepan, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and tofu pieces. Bring to boil and cook tofu on medium high heat for 8 to 10 minutes and remove from heat. Precooking tofu in water prevents tofu from breaking apart easily later. Set aside.
While tofu is cooking, make cornstarch paste by mixing 1 T cornstarch and 1 T water. Set aside.
Set wok on high heat for 1 minute until hot. Add 2 T vegetable oil and swirl the pan, then add ground pork, stirring to separate.
When ground pork is browned, add Chinese brown bean sauce ie tenmenjan, tenmienjan, or tenmenjiang, Chinese chili bean sauce ie toubanjan or doubanjiang, fermented black beans, and ichimi tougarashi or minced dried red chili pepper. Continue to cook for 1 minute.
Add chili oil, drained tofu pieces, chicken stock, garlic chives, soy sauce, and sake. Stir fry gently for 1-2 minutes.
Add cornstarch paste to thicken and add sesame oil. Swirl gently and cook for another 3-4 minutes on medium high heat. Sprinkle Szechuan peppercorn on top.
Serve with steamed white rice.

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RECIPE 1: I’ll be honest – I hardly followed the recipe. I made my own low-sodium versions of bean paste, since I ran out of fermented bean paste a few months ago. I combined miso, a homemade version of hoisin with peanut butter and tamari… the substitutions were a mess. Sherry for Shaoxing wine, sesame oil for peanut oil… I barely had anything the recipe called for at all. But this was still one of the best things I made all winter.

Hits all those comfort food notes. Greasy, sweet, salty, savory, texturally interesting, and absolutely numbing and spicy. Just… yes. I used some extra chili oil from last month’s batch of dan dan noodles (dandanmian), and a ton of Sichuan peppercorns toasted and ground, although nowhere near the teaspoon called for in the recipe.

A comment on the Epi review recommends iron chef Chen‘s recipe as slightly more authentic and less sweet. Since I used half my oyster sauce on this recipe, I’ll definitely try it.

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RECIPE 2: I was worried it’d be too spicy, so I cut the bean paste from 3T to 2T. It wasn’t spicy enough last night, but the leftovers sat and got spicier and spicier! Today it was just perfect. I’d say cut it to 2T if you’re making it for tomorrow. Otherwise, go for the whole 3T! Very different from the super-sweet oyster sauce version. They’re both so good! I would say version two is a little more savory and simple, and recipe one is a little more of a flavor bomb, much saltier and sweeter. The first is perfect for American palates, and the second is great for people who don’t care for sweet food. I highly recommend both! I can’t wait to try iron chef Chen‘s recipe to complete this trifecta of tofu!

Added this to the “rotation” tag because I plan to try all the different versions of this amazing dish. I made this twice so far in March. What a rad way to use up the last little bit of ground meat in your fridge!

 

edit: help I can’t stop eating this incredible spicy meal

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RECIPE 3: (July, 2019) I’m guessing this is the most authentic, as it tastes the least like something from an Americanized Chinese restaurant. Recipe #1 is way too sweet, even for me, but it’s really delicious if you like it sweet. Recipe #2 is super flavorful. Recipe #3 is definitely more subtle. I splurged on some fermented black beans this year, and I really liked their subtle flavor in this. I definitely recommend recipe #3 – it’s delicious.

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BEST MAPO TOFU EVER: for my tastes, I prefer recipe #2 with some alterations. Next, I will start combining all these recipes – a little oyster sauce or hoisin from recipe #1, a ton of chives from recipe #3, using the skeleton of recipe #2. I have made this no less than five times this year!