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Ma Po Tofu

Vegetable oil
1/8 lb. ground pork, unseasoned
1/2 tablespoon hot paste
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sweet bean paste
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
14 ounces (one carton) soft tofu, cut in 1" cubes
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
1/4 cup diced water chestnuts (optional)
1/4 cup scallions (including the green part), chopped
Several dried cloud ear fungi, soaked (optional)
Sesame oil
Ground Szechuan peppercorns (optional)

Heat frying pan and add a little oil. Cook the pork with hot paste,
garlic, and sweet bean sauce (see recipe below). Add stock, soy,
and sugar. Mix and add tofu. Cover and let simmer for a minute
or so. Mix the cornstarch and water. Carefully blend the cornstarch
mix into the boiling ma po sauce (don't break up the tofu cubes),
using just enough of the cornstarch to slightly thicken the sauce.
Add the scallions, water chestnuts, cloud ear, and a few drops of
sesame oil. Put on serving dish and grind a little Szechuan pepper
on top.

Sweet Bean Paste

1 1/2 cup red (aka) miso
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Chablis wine
1/2 cup hot water
1 1/2 cup soy sauce

Mix thoroughly before heating uncovered. Stirring constantly,
bring to a foamy boil. Cook slowly for 1/2 to 1 hour (depending
on how slow you cook it), stirring often. The sauce is sufficiently
reduced when it reluctantly drips off a spoon and becomes instantly
thick and gooey when landing on a cool surface. Pour in a storage
jar while still warm. Do not scrape any crust or burnt sauce that
may cling to the sides and bottom. After cooling the sauce should
have the consistency of pudding. Sweet bean paste will keep
indefinitely if refrigerated.

Yields 1 quart of sauce.


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