Ma Po Tofu       
Yield: 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS

• 1½ tablespoons Sichuan hot bean sauce
• 1½ tablespoons sweet bean paste
• 2½ tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
• 4 oz/114 g ground pork or beef
• 1 tablespoon green onions, minced
• ½ teaspoon ginger, minced
• ½ teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
• 2 dried red hot chili peppers, cut in half lengthwise
• 1 lb/454 g firm tofu, cut into ½-inch/1.3-cm cubes
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water
• 1 tablespoon homemade Sichuan peppercorn oil (page 162) or ¼ teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder

SAUCE INGREDIENTS

• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon Shaohsing rice cooking wine or medium-dry Sherry
• ½ teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
• ½ cup/120 ml low-sodium chicken broth or cold water

DIRECTIONS

1. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl; make sure the mixture is thoroughly combined and reserve. Combine Sichuan hot bean sauce and sweet bean paste in a second small bowl.

2. Heat two tablespoons oil in a 12-inch/30-cm large non-stick sauté pan or wok over high heat. When the oil is hot, at around 400°F/200°C, add ground pork into pan. Quickly stir-fry with a spatula to separate the meat pieces. When the meat turns light brown or beige in color, transfer the meat to a bowl and set aside.

3. Heat the remaining ½ tablespoon oil in the same sauté pan or wok; when the oil is hot, add green onions, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers. Sauté for about 30 seconds or until the mixture is fragrant.

4. Add the Sichuan hot bean sauce mixture into pan; sauté for about 30 seconds or until the bean sauce is fragrant and turning dark in color. Add the cooked pork, tofu, and the sauce mixture. Gently stir with a spatula and bring the mixture to a boil.

5. Slowly add the dissolved cornstarch into pan and gently stir until the mixture thickens. Turn off the stove. Drizzle Sichuan peppercorn oil or peppercorn powder on top; gently stir a few times with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients are mixed well. Transfer to a serving plate.

6. Serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle minced green onions on top of the dish for garnish.