So, after some thought, I’ve decided to revisit the post that kicked off this little anime food blog in the first place, launching me into the community of blogging, food, and anime… It’s been over 2 years since I wrote up a recipe for the “Super Spicy Mapo Tofu That No One Dares Order” featured in Angel Beats!, and while I was pleased with my work then, I like to think that I’ve improved maybe a little bit over the years when it comes to crafting recipes, cooking, and writing.
Looking back on my original mapo tofu recipe, I have come to realize that it’s just not up to snuff. The recipe is for more of a general mapo tofu dish, and it simply suggests optional ingredients such as chili oil, chili peppers, and hot sauce to make it spicy. How can a recipe that’s supposed to be “super spicy” merely suggest adding spicy ingredients? To that end, I’ve designed this new recipe using several ingredients (chili oil, hot pepper paste, fresh chilies, and even a dusting of freshly ground Szechuan peppercorn) to build up the spiciness in layers, lending more depth and flavor to this newly crafted recipe for the “Super Spicy Mapo Tofu That No One Dares Order”!
Note: I’ll be keeping the original, more general recipe up on the site, but it’ll no longer be called the “Super Spicy Mapo Tofu That No One Dares Order”, and will instead be modified slightly to reflect this change. Find the original post here, and the general, non-spicy mapo tofu recipe here.
About the recipe:
Before we get going, let’s just acknowledge that spiciness is completely subjective. What I consider spicy (or even super spicy) won’t be the same as what you consider spicy. So, please keep that in mind as you consider the recipe below, and if you think that my recipe contains way too much (or too little) hot pepper paste, chili oil, or chilies, go ahead and tailor it to suit your personal level of spiciness.
As for the cooking process involved, there’s really only 2 things to keep in mind:
- Break the ground meat into very small pieces, the smaller the better. This will help make the pork more seasoned and tasty, and will allow the meat to meld better the sauce without causing it to be too chunky.
- After adding the tofu, be careful and very gentle when mixing. Mixing too vigorously will cause the tofu to break into small pieces. Try using a folding technique or a back and forth motion with your spatula to stir the mapo tofu.
About the ingredients:
Ground pork is my meat of choice when it comes to mapo tofu, though it can also be made with beef as well. Oftentimes, I have found store-bought ground pork to be too fatty, therefore, I like to buy a lean piece of pork (such as tenderloin or pork chop) and grind it myself. Mixing the ground meat with soy sauce and cornstarch helps to tenderize the meat, as well as add some flavor. For this recipe, I recommend using Chinese soy sauce instead of Japanese soy sauce.
Bean sauce is an important ingredient in this dish, giving the mapo tofu much of its seasoning and flavor. When I make this at home, I like to use a combination of brown bean sauce and black bean sauce, which gives the dish a more complex flavor. Brown beans are more mild in flavor than the distinct taste of black beans. The two bean sauces help to balance each other out, helping to create a delicious dish. However, it’s fine to use only one type of bean sauce! I would opt for brown bean sauce over black bean sauce in such a case.
Red pepper paste, such as the Korean gochujang or the Chinese doubanjiang, gives this dish its first layer of spiciness. Both pastes are spicy and salty, are fermented, and contain soybeans, glutinous rice, and salt, in addition to plenty of red chilies. Doubanjiang additionally contains many spices, and is considered an integral ingredients to Szechuan cooking. Both pastes can be found in Asian grocery stores.
Medium or soft tofu is recommended for this recipe. Avoid firm tofu for this dish because you want to have the tofu simply melt in your mouth as you eat it! Of course, because soft tofu can be difficult to work with and can break apart easily if moved around too vigorously, it is tempting to use firm tofu. However, you will sacrifice a lot of the silky texture that makes this dish so delicious! Be gentle with the tofu, but there’s no need to be afraid of touching or moving it around the pan!
Bird eye chilies are small red chilies that are quite spicy… They’re often used in Thai or Chinese cooking and can be found in many Asian grocery stores. Remove the seeds to dampen the spiciness, if only just slightly.
Super spicy mapo tofu
Makes 4 servings
For the chili oil:
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (peanut or canola)
- 1 large handful of dried chili peppers (about 12 – 15 chilies), crushed or broken into smaller pieces
For the mapo tofu:
- 1/2 lb ground pork
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp chili oil
- 5 cloves garlic, finely minced or pressed in a garlic press
- 1 tbsp brown bean sauce
- 1 tbsp black bean sauce
- 1 tbsp red pepper paste (Korean gochujang or Chinese doubanjiang)
- 1/2 cup water or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
- 1 block tofu, drained of water and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 3 – 5 bird eye chilies, minced (remove seeds for less spice)
- 2 green onions, minced
- Sesame seed oil
- Szechuan peppercorn, freshly ground
For the chili oil:
1. In a wok or small pot set on medium low heat, add oil and dried chili peppers and cook, stirring occasionally until the oil begins to turn slightly red and the chilies turn a shade darker in color, about 5 minutes. Make sure not to brown or burn the chilies.
2. Remove oil from heat and set aside until cool, about 2 hours. The oil will get redder the longer it sits. Stores well in a clean glass bottle in the refrigerator.
For the mapo tofu:
1. Mix ground pork, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a bowl. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before cooking.
2. Place 2 tbsp chili oil in a wok, and heat over medium high heat until shimmering. Add garlic, brown bean paste, black bean paste, and red pepper paste, and cook until fragrant, about 30 – 60 seconds.
3. Add ground pork and cook, breaking it into small pieces (the smaller the better!) with a spatula. When the pork is cooked through, no longer pink in color, and broken into very small pieces, add water or broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 2 – 3 minutes. Ensure cornstarch is completely dissolved in water, and then add it to the pan, stirring to combine.
5. Add tofu and gently incorporate into the pork and sauce, using a back and forth motion with the spatula to help prevent the tofu from breaking. Simmer for an additional 5 – 8 minutes, or until the tofu is heated through and has melded with the sauce. Add bird eye chilies and green onions.
6. Taste and adjust seasonings (add more bean paste, red pepper paste or soy sauce depending on your tastes) and the consistency of the sauce (using additional cornstarch mixed with water to thicken the sauce). The sauce should coat the meat and tofu without being too watery or gelatinous.
Bring to a brief simmer again, then remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil. Garnish with freshly ground Szechuan peppercorn, and additional chili oil or minched bird eye chilies, if desired.
Serve with rice.