In the most part of my stay in China, I was sharing an apartment with my female colleague Chen Yufeng and his husband, Liu Lin. Almost every night, we would alternately cook for dinner. One of my favorite dishes to cook was stir fried lotus roots in rice wine vinegar and my favorite among their dishes was Mapo Tofu. Liu Lin was the one from Sichuan province, where the dish was said to have originated, but it was Yufeng who would cook that dish and I don’t remember her using Sichuan peppercorn or maybe she did used Sichuan peppercorns but I’d asked her not to. Sichuan peppercorns ranks top on my least favorite spices in the universe, I just can’t bear its smell and the lingering aftertaste.
When one of my flatmates who I usually share dinners with suggested we cook deep fried tofu with chili sauce, Mapo tofu immediately came to mind. This dish, of course, does not involve deep frying the tofu and the tofu had to be silken and not just ordinary tofu but we decided to give it a go. The regular tofu won’t rise up in protest, anyway.
If you think you have enough access to most Asian spices and seasonings, you may follow the recipes here and here. In our case, we don’t have enough access to the right ingredients so the Mapo tofu on this post was prepared using just regular tofu, ground beef, Lee Kum Kee spicy bean sauce and hoisin sauce, soy sauce, chili powder, garlic and shallots. No Sichuan peppercorns!