For a long time Sichuan Ma Po Tofu has been one of my favorite Chinese dishes. But I most of the version to this point have contained meat (usually pork). I even have a video on YouTube how to cook that version. To keep the dish gout friendly the pork has been eliminated. It is still flavorful so do not worry about the missing pork. From what I read the dish started out as cheap vegetarian meal so now we go back to basics.
To me Sichuan food is not complete without Sichuan Peppercorns. Something about than numbing effect and the fragrant aroma. But if you use to much its not fun. If you have never cooked with it before use only a little and see if you like it. For this I recommend using one teaspoon but save some for garnish.
My wife actually hates Sichuan Peppercorns so when making her Ma Po Tofu the peppercorns are left out.
Just before using grind the Sichuan Peppercorns in a coffee grinder. Warning do not breath the dust, trust me on this.
Spicy Broad Bean Paste is also an important ingredient. You will need to find a market with a large Chinese section or order online. This is the one that I used today.
The dish also needs dried spicy red peppers. The Mexican Chile de Arbol (tree pepper) are my go to. They are easy to find no matter where I am at in the US. I do cut off the steams and shake out most of the seeds. But I do not eat them……
For oil since this is not cooked at high temperature you can use just about any neutral flavored oil that you want. This dish does have a lot of oil. It is used to carry flavors but if you want to reduce that I understand.
Before you start to cook have everything ready and within reach of your cooking station.
To a cold wok add the oil, dried peppers, ginger, garlic and Sichuan Peppercorns. Heat on medium until it starts to sizzle. Cook until the garlic just starts to get some color. This step is to flavor the oil.
After the garlic starts to get some color add the Spicy Broad Bean Paste and green onions. Cook on medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Just to get it to blend with the oil and add just a little color.
Mix the vegetable stock and cornstarch and add to the work. Raise flame to high.
When the liquid starts to boil give it a good mix to ensure the corn starch is thickening the mixture. Add the tofu pieces and heat thru while gently mixing. This should take 2 or 3 minutes.
Add to your serving dish and garnish with green onions and Sichuan Peppercorns. Unless you are like my wife. In that case do not add the Sichuan Peppercorns.