Monday, September 22, 2014

Ori's Mapo Tofu Stew

I'm not even sure if it qualifies as mapo tofu, but here it is anyway.


400gr minced meat (we use a mix of beef and pork)

250-300gr tofu (soft or firm, only the cooking time differs)

3-4 cloves of garlic

Water (about 1 liter), sesame oil, light soy sauce

Red pepper powder

2 spring onions (chopped in 1-2 cm pieces)

For the broth:

I go two ways, depending on what I have.

Version 1
1 veggie stock cube
1 very full tablespoon of doenjang (fermented soybean paste)
More red pepper flakes than in the other version for this one
Light soy sauce and sesame oil

Version 2
1 veggie stock cube
Half a pack of Lee Kum Kee's Soup Base for Sichuan Hot and Spicy Hot Pot
Smaller amount of red pepper flakes, since the paste is spicy
Light soy sauce and sesame oil

I tried it without doenjang or the hot pot base and I could not eat it. I feel it definitely needs one of the two, otherwise the soy sauce and sesame oil alone cannot save it. I personally prefer Version 2. That hot pot soup base is delicious and affordable stuff.


Heat up 1-1 1/2 liters of water in a pot or water boiler.

Heat a little bit of vegetable oil in a deep pan. High heat.

Throw in the garlic (chopped finely or in slices, depends on how you like it), then put in the meat and cook until all the juices are gone.

Add the hot water into the meat. The more water you use, the more flavoring for the broth you will need, so all the amounts listed from this point on are on a "more or less" basis.

Add the stock cube and doenjang or hot pot base. Taste it. If it is too salty, add some water, if not enough, add some doenjang/hot pot base and/or soy sauce, which I also add at this point.

Two things to keep in mind. One, while the broth might seem salty, the minced meat breaks that, so you need to taste a bit of the broth with a bit of the meat to know the final taste. Second, this liquid will reduce quite a bit, so do not make it too salty to begin with. The tastes will get stronger as it reduces. It's best to make it a bit bland and then add more soy sauce after it has reduced, if you need to.

Add the pepper flakes. Taste to see how much you need. Don't burn yourselves. I usually put 2 tea spoons for the hot pot base version or then well over a tablespoon if I'm using doenjang. It's very mild that way, so it's a safe amount.

Leave on the same high heat for 7-10 minutes, with the lid off.

When the water is first added (left) and when it is ready for the spring onions (right)

When it has reduced as much as you want (there has to be a fair amount of liquid there) and it tastes as you want to, add the tofu. If the tofu is soft, scoop/squeeze big chunks of it out, as the boiling will break it up a bit. It will take less than 5 minutes to be ready and you know it is when it starts breaking up. If the tofu is firm, it will take 7-10 minutes. You will know it is done because it will expand and plump up. This time, I used firm tofu. If you're using soft, you can reduce the stew a bit more before adding it.

Now, I personally add the sesame oil at the same time as the tofu. Add just a drizzle, the taste is strong. You can taste after stirring it and see if you need more. Always try to scoop for a taste from the parts where the stuff is boiling, since the liquid is well mixed there and taste more reliable.

After the tofu is done, add the chopped spring onions and cook for a few seconds. They are nice when crunchy and fresh, so you don't want to really cook them much. If you don't like them, you can leave them out or add a little. I love them and add a lot. I feel they add to the dish and it just doesn't taste as good without them.

Serve with some basmati rice. I also eat it with kimchi on the side, when I have it, because I love the stuff.

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