Originally a dish from the Szechuan province of China, tofu in a spicy chili bean sauce with meat and vegetables. Omit the meat to make it vegan or vegetarian.
Guests love this one (are probably relieved to find something looking normal on their plate in my home). This version of Mapo Tofu is simpler than any from a restaurant, minus the trappings of sugar and MSG. Serve over rice.
Tofu 1 pack, 14 oz
Organic ground beef 1 lb
Vegetables of choice
Chopped onion ½ c (¾ c okay, onion lovers)
Garlic and ginger nice (Have omitted when short on time)
Sesame oil 1 ½ T optional just before serving
Tomato paste, the secret to the kick in the dish. One 6 oz. can.
Organic miso 1 T
Hot red pepper paste 1/3 T
Organic tamari 1 T
Sea salt ½ t
Grain syrup or raw honey 1 T
Rice wine 1 T optional
Brown the ground beef in a skillet or pot. I use a deep skillet that works like a shallow pot. Ground turkey is a fine alternative. Add onion. When the beef’s about halfway done, break up and flip, and add the tofu pieces cubed about 1/2”.
The sauce makes sense. Tart, salty, spicy, and a bit sweet to pull those other flavors away from their extreme. Prepare the sauce and stir into the tofu and meat so that they absorb it. Adjust taste as desired. Add a spoonful or two of water if it looks like it could use it. Toss in the garlic and ginger.
Kuzu 2 T
Cool water 2 T
If you’d like to jell the sauce as it’s done at restaurants, add the kuzu mixture now and a little more water toward the end. The sauce will thicken. It’s a fun touch but guests and husband have enjoyed the meal plenty without it. Since rice accompanies the Mapo and there are more ingredients that I normally use in a sitting, I skip the kuzu starch for better digestion. The final 5-7 min toss in the veggies. Capitalize on the rich, appetizing dish this is and tuck in a lot of vegetables or ones you don’t eat regularly. I’ve used fennel and zucchini, this particular evening 12 white mushrooms and ½ cup radicchio with some chopped kale. The red tofu just begs countercolors like green and white. To balance the soft, round ones that cooked into the dish, I served on the side asparagus and green beans to provide length and crunch.
The dish adjusts its own chemistry. The tomato helps break down the meat and increases iron absorption. The tofu is a good cooling counterpart protein to the beef that is warming, both of which the vegetables harmonize. The sweetness rounds out the zip while keeping in check the saltiness.