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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two Ma Po Tofu Recipes

This is a dish that is served in Chinese restaurants and buffet places, and is one of my Dad's favourite dishes. This recipe is one that my Dad created and started making years and years ago, and has passed it on to me. It is definitely a family favourite.

I am putting two versions of it here. Like many of my dishes that I make, I'll make subtle changes here and there, so I wanted to give you two versions to try out.

History of Ma Po Tofu

Do you know how ma po tofu got its name? During the reign of Emperor Guangxu (1871-1908) of the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), a woman named Wen Qiaoqiao pitted from pock-marks in Chengdu City was married to an owner of an oil refinery. Unluckily, after 10 years of marriage her husband died in an accident while carrying oil. After her husband's death, Qiaoqiao and her sister in-law were left poorly off. Her husband's former laborers and her neighbors often took rice and vegetables to assist them. There happened to be a tofu shop and a beef shop on either side of their residence. One day, Qiaoqiao put the ground beef and the tofu together to be stewed into a dish and found it tasted delicious. Then, she asked the neighbors to taste it and almost all of them felt it nice to eat. Thus, she and her sister in-law changed their house into a small restaurant, front part of which was the restaurant and the back part the living quarter. They mainly served the patrons with the stewed tofu with ground beef and built up a good business due to the tastiness of their signature dish and its affordable price. Later, Qiaoqiao hadn't remarried and lived on her small restaurant all the time. After she died, people named the stewed tofu with ground beef as ma po tofu (pock-marked grandmother) to remember her and the name has been used ever since.
(From: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/tour/food/chinese-cooking/mapo-tofu.htm)

2 lb ground beef
1 - 2 onions diced
4 cloves garlic diced
1/2 inch piece of ginger grated
1 jalepeno pepper (seeds removed and diced)
2-4 green onions sliced about 2cms
6 fresh tomatoes diced about 1inch thich
1 packet regular tofu (although you can also use silken, I prefer to have larger and more firm pieces of tofu), diced into 1/2 inch thick pieces

1/2 cup ketchup
2 Tbsp Hoi Sin Sauce
2 Tbsp Red Bean Paste
1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce (or adjust to taste)
1 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp chicken bouillon powder (or to taste)
1 Tbsp good quality sesame oil

* In a very hot wok add 1/2 Tbsp of cooking oil, let get very hot (even smoking is okay)
* Add the onions and cook until almost glassy, add the garlic, ginger and chili pepper, stir fry for a few minutes until the aroma is quite strong
* Add the beef and cook all together... allow it to cook all the way thru
* Add tomatoes and let stew for a few minutes and then add Tofu, and all the sauce ingredients.
* Let simmer together for about 10 mins so tomatoes are cooked thru and flavour is infused

If you find that the dish is too watery, take 2 tsp of corn starch with a few table spoons of water until just a bit more than a paste. Then add to the dish stirring and let come to a very quick little boil and immediately turn off.

This makes a very big dish and can serve even 6-8 people.

Serve it with steamed rice.

Ma Po Tofu 2

1lb ground meat
2 onions, diced
6 cloves of garlic, diced
2" knob of ginger, grated or minced
6 green onions, chopped
Fresh coriander, chopped (approx 2 TBSP)
1 green pepper, diced finely
1 red pepper, diced finely
1 or 2 jalapeno's, diced finely - seeds removed (or use Asian red chili's)
1 large can, diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes diced)
1 pkt Silken Tofu, diced (large dices or small, depends on how you like it)
2 TBSP light soy sauce
2 TBSP Sri Racha chili sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp chicken powder
1 tsp sesame oil (optional)

1. Fry the meat until browned, add onions, garlic, ginger, green onions, and chili; cook until onions are cooked through
2. Add the peppers and cook until "blanched" cooked
3. Add the tomatoes and tofu
4. Add the sauces and chicken powder
5. Add the coriander and let simmer for about 5-10 mins, stirring frequently, to marry all the flavours.

Serve with steamed rice


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