This recipe is based on Mapo Tofu by Fuschia Dunlop. Many of the amounts stay the same but I wanted to shift to something that had a lighter, brighter flavor.
* If you don’t have access to sichuan chili bean paste use instead 3 T of Lee Kum Kee Guilin Style Chili Sauce. You may be able to use others but look for both fermented black beans and salted chilis.
* The brand of coconut milk I recommend is Chaokoh Coconut Milk; If you can’t find it the milk has to be full fat.
* Note I’d start with half the lime zest and taste just before the final simmer and add to taste
* Chinese chives are large flat-leaved chives found in most asian supermarkets. Typically labelled chives but have a stronger flavor than their American counterparts.
500g firm tofu, chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
1 T vegetable oil
2.5 T Sichuan chili bean paste, minced if chunky
( OR 3 T Lee Kum Kee Guilin Style Chili Sauce if chili paste unavailable. )
2 t 4g ground chilis, red pepper flakes can work in a pinch though you’ll need to fine-tune
1.25 T 12.5g finely minced garlic
1.5 T 15g finely minced ginger
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk
2 (7g) limes, zested and zest very finely minced
1 (20g) lime, juiced
2 T 10g Chinese chives, chopped into 1/4″ segments, you can use 2 scallions instead greens and whites
.5 t coriander
.5 t cumin
.5 t white pepper
1 T potato starch mixed with 2 T cold water
.25-.5 t ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, roasting can be had by first warming the sauce pan on medium heat and toasting til just fragrant
1. Put tofu in very hot (140f), salted water, set aside
NOTE: this next step happens quickly so be sure to have the ingredients handy.
2. Heat oil over high heat in large (12 inch) sauce pan; add and saute chili paste until fragrant and the oil is a rich red, then add 1 t ground chili, zest of 1 lime, garlic, ginger, coriander, and cumin and saute until fragrant, just a few seconds more. Be sure to not overcook as we’re looking to enhance not change the flavors.
3. Add can of coconut milk and white pepper and bring to a simmer. Let simmer five minutes or so and taste. Here it is a choose your adventure so feel free to add more lime zest, ground chili, or ginger as desired. Let simmer another five minutes and let me know what you added!
4. Remove the tofu using a slotted spoon and gently press the tofu with your hand to remove the extra liquid. Gently tuck into the sauce. Let simmer for a few more minutes stirring gently so the tofu can warm and absorb the flavors of the sauce.
5. Add the chinese chives or scallions to the sauce.
6. Stir the potato starch and water to bring them together and adding half at first; gently stir the starch into the sauce taking care not to break up the tofu. The sauce will thicken and continue to add potato starch until you have a thick sauce that coats the tofu. If you use a different coconut milk you may need more starch.
7. Once thick, pick your favorite deep bowl and fill. Season with the Sichuan pepper and serve.