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DUNLOP March Cookbooks of Month: Vegetables and Bean Curd

Land of Plenty has a chapter combining Vegetables and Bean Curd. Revolutionary Chinese just has Bean Curd. All discussion of both should be here.

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  1. So, we tried a meal of Traditional Dan Dan Noodles (LOP, page 87), Dry-Fried Green Beans I (LOP, pg 289), and Cold Chicken with Fragrant Rice Wine (LOP, page 183), the former two because they are some of my favorite dishes from a Sichuan restaurant in town and the latter because we had some leftover cooked chicken to use up.

    Here's the most important thing for you to know about the dry-fried green beans. YOU MUST REMEMBER TO RINSE THE TIANJIN (AND SQUEEZE IT DRY) BEFORE YOU USE IT otherwise your dish will be way way too salty. Dunlop mentions this on page 27 of RC, but I haven't found a similar warning in LOP. We made a number of substitutions in the recipe so I could count it as "core" for Weight Watchers. We used lean ground beef (instead of pork, mostly because I had some I need to use up), only a tsp (instead of a TBSP) of peanut oil, and only a half tsp (instead of 1 tsp) of sesame oil. We thought the texture was perfect and it looked gorgeous, but, alas, because we did not rinse the tianjin, it was really hard to make a fair assessment of the dish because salty was the predominant flavor. Boo hoo. We are definitely going to try this one again--even too salty, I liked it. It was pretty easy, too.

    The photo feature doesn't seem to be working right now, sorry. I'll discuss the chicken and the dan dan noodles in the appetizers http://www.chowhound.com/topics/494661 and noodles http://www.chowhound.com/topics/494662 threads.

    ~TDQ

    40 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Dry-fried green beans I (LOP, pp 289-290) 2nd attempt

      So, last time I really blew it by not rinsing the preserved vegetables (leaving the dish too salty). It has since been suggested by HLing (in one of the Dunlop threads) that you rinse and squeeze the preserved veggies, chop them small, then rinse and squeeze them again. I didn't do the post-chopping rinse because I didn't see HLing's suggestion until too late.

      Also, Dunlop suggests in the prelude to this recipe that you can steam the green beans instead of frying them as per step 2 if you want to reduce the amount of oil... So, I did that. In addition, I used 3 oz of Canadian bacon instead of ground pork and 1 1/2 tsp of peanut oil (instead of 2 TBSP). Since the Canadian bacon is a little salty, I decided we were going to forgo "adding salt to taste." And then we made 2 accidental adjustments--in the middle of frying, my husband asked, "What's going to give this recipe heat?" and I grabbed the book and (thought) I saw that it was supposed to have dried chiles in it (which is not true, by the way, that's the "version 2" of this dish on page 290) , so, in my panic, I decide to add a tsp of chile paste, which, sadly, is itself a little salty. And, in the rush of all of this, we forgot to add the tsp of sesame oil at the end as per step 5.

      This dish turned out to be too salty, but I don't know if that's because I didn't rinse the preserved vegetables after I chopped them, because of the Canadian bacon substitution, because I reduced the oil, or because I added the chile paste. Could have been any or all of those things. I'm not ready to give up on this dish yet--I am going to make it once a week for the rest of my life until I get it right. HA!

      Also, I'm not sure I loved the steaming of the green beans. The texture isn't as pleasing as when you fry it and it gets wrinkly--I think I'd rather have wrinkly, even when using just a small amount of oil.
      I served it with "fish fragrant pork slivers" (which I talked about in the meat thread) and over wild rice.

      ~TDQ

       
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Seems as though I’m the last one on the block to try the Dry-Fried Green Beans. And I concur; very good and so very, very easy. I only have this to add: I stir-fried the beans in 1 teaspoon of peanut oil and just used what was left in the pan for the pork. It was plenty. And for the preserved vegetable I used something labeled “Pickled vegetables, Chinese Artichoke.” It just appealed to me so I bought it. These “artichokes” are the size and shape of a small chili pepper with bumps on them. No idea what the hell it is. But although salty, it was only slighly so. I didn’t need to rinse them; just chopped them up and put them in. I really liked the taste of them right out of the jar, too, and look forward to using them in more dishes. This whole pickled vegetable thing confuses me. In the intro to LOP Dunlop seems to say that in actuality people use whatever is at hand, but then calls for something specific in the recipes. I chose to take this as freedom to use whatever struck my fancy and was very glad I did. These pickled artichokes are a delightful condiment, whether or not they are meant to be used in this dish.

         
        1. re: JoanN

          Gorgeous photo. I seem to be stuck in the Stir Fried Peppers With Black Beans and Garlic room. Is the quality of the beans you got good at this time of year? They certainly look fab.

          1. re: JoanN

            We loved that bean dish, JoanN. We couldn't find the pickled vegetables in our Asian Market, so I made my own with Chinese cabbage. Found a recipe on line. It was delicious. Thanks for the tip about the artichokes! I'll look for that the next time we go. We have decided to continue cooking from the Chinese books as an alternative.

            The Dry-Fried Bean dish is staying in my regular rotation. I think it could accompany anything.

            1. re: Gio

              I'm loving the artichokes. Used them again last night in the Traditional Dan Dan Noodles. I noticed that you had made your own pickled cabbage and gave it passing thought. But once I discovered these, I figured it could wait until I used them up.

              Here's a couple of photos, one of the jar and one of the artichokes. The chokes look black in the photo, but are actually a dark, dark green.

               
              1. re: JoanN

                Oh wow - those don't look anything like the Italian artichokes I'm used to. Many thanks for posting a foto. Now I know what to look for.

                Let me know if you'd like the recipe for the pickled cabbage... actually there's two of them.

                1. re: Gio

                  Oh, those are crosnes! I've had them fresh in salads.

                  What a great find JoanN. I'll be on the lookout for those pickled Chinese artichokes now.

                  1. re: Rubee

                    Bless you, Rubee. I'd never heard of crosnes before. Just looked them up and was flabbergasted at what can be done with them. Very, very dangerous. I found out the pickled ones can be used as a garnish in martinis. That little jar might not last as long as I thought it would!

                  2. re: Gio

                    Yes, indeed. Please. I'd love a recipe for the pickled cabbage. Especially now (see response to Rubee) that my "artichokes" probably won't last very long.

                  3. re: JoanN

                    I've been subbing in the stir fried cabbage in place of the pickled vegetable.

                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/494666

                    When the dish is cold, it's slightly vinegary from the chiang king vinegar.

                    But, I have chinese pickled cukes in the fridge (I eat this with rice porridge). I should toss that in as well next time.

                    1. re: beetlebug

                      Great idea. I really liked that stir-fried cabbage and was just nibbling on the leftovers. Now I know what to do with them.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        I've made it three times so far and just realized I haven't been following the recipe. I've been using ground sichuan peppercorn v. whole. I'll have to try it the "correct" way next time.

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Funny, isn't it, that so many of our "substitutions" have worked out so well. I'll be curious to hear if you think it makes a difference.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            I realized I made the same mistake with the dry fried chicken. So, I made the chicken again with whole peppercorns. It was better with the ground peppercorns. A more intense flavor without the crunchy pepper bits.

                            1. re: beetlebug

                              Good to know. I made a fairly small batch of the ground roasted peppercorns and am running low. I'll have to make up a new batch. I still have sooo many recipes bookmarked.

                              As for Dunlop leftovers, I'm sitting here saying to myself, "No, Joan. Do NOT eat the cold Dan Dan noodles for breakfast! No! No!"

                              1. re: JoanN

                                I usually give into the noodles. But for both kinds of dan dan noodles, I pop them into the microwave to slightly heat them up. Tastes better to me when they are warm.

                                I could go for some of my leftover ants climbing the tree right now.

                        2. re: JoanN

                          I had to restrain myself from eating them cold. I kept repeating, you need this for other recipes...

                          1. re: beetlebug

                            I LOVE the noodles cold and so does my husband. Yueyang Hot Dry Noodles in Rev. Chinese , mmmmm.

                  4. re: JoanN

                    I made these green beans with meat tonight. I've made them before but have used a variety of pickled vegetables. I've liked the dish in the past but was curious to see how it would taste with different preserved/pickled veggies. Well, tonight, I used farm fresh green beans and the recipe recommended preserved vegetables. And wow, this was fabulous.

                    I carefully rinsed the preserved veggies, numerous times. I didn't rinse post chop because I didn't see that rec until posting on this thread. However, the dish didn't come out overly salty.

                    This is a great way to use up CSA green beans and I could taste the difference.

                     
                    1. re: beetlebug

                      Darn it. Sounds great! I was going to make green beans with walnut sauce from the current COTM tonight. However, I just stocked up at the Asian market where I found Tianjin preserved vegetables, so maybe I'll make this instead. Decisions, decisions.

                      1. re: Rubee

                        This is a sure thing. I really liked those Tianjin preserved veggies. Rinse really well because they are incredibly gritty.

                      2. re: beetlebug

                        I had a craving for the Dry-Fried Green Beans #1 from LOP, but when I got to the market the green beans looked pretty tired. The snow peas, however, looked great. So. I stir-fried the snow peas in hot oil, but probably for not much more than a minute. I had some tianjin but it wasn't opened, so used preserved mustard tuber instead. I'm beginning to think you just can't screw up either of these recipes. Substitute this for that and that for this and it's still great.

                         
                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Dry-fried green beans I (LOP, pp 289-290)

                          Just bumping this up. This dish has become a summer staple for me. It's especially tasty with fresh summer green beans. And, I love that I always have everything in the pantry or freezer which makes this especially easy to make.

                          1. re: beetlebug

                            Love this recipe! Thanks for the reminder. I can't wait for my CSA green beans!

                            ~TDQ

                      3. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Finally tried the dry-fried green beans the other night and we loved it. I used tianjin preserved vegetables, and I didn't rinse them because it didn't say to do so in the recipe. I also note that she says to be careful adding extra salt because of the saltiness of the preserved vegetable, so I assume she doesn't rinse hers either. Anyway, I didn't find the dish too salty at all - it was perfect.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Oh, yes, this continues to be one of my favorite dishes.

                          She doesn't say to rinse in the recipe, but she does say to in the ingredient glossaries in one of the books, I think. The dish will still be salty even after rinsing. If I recall, when I made this dish the first time, it was from a newly-opened container of Tian Jin preserved vegetables, which meant I was using whatever was immediately under that top layer of salt. Really extraordinarily salty.

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            There's a newish product you might look for - preserved veg (zhai cai) in small pouches that are the right amount for a couple of goes of this. You can freeze what you don't use. Doesn't come in the cute jar but the condiment is actually more appropriate to the dish than the Tianjin veg. I'll take a photo of the ones I got this weekend if you'd like to see (3 pouches for $1.39 or something).

                            1. re: buttertart

                              Oh that sounds fantastic, thank you! I've had the zhai cai with the green beans in restaurants, but was never able to find it in my Asian grocery! I'm planning on going to the Asian market today or tomorrow anyway...

                              ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  I love zhai cai and always have packets in my cupboard. It also tastes great stir fried with ground pork and green peppers. There is a recipe in the RCC cookbook that I've modified over the years.

                                  Unfortunately, I used the last packet last week and haven't replenished yet, so no picture. But, it's about the size of a pop rocks container, just full of preserved vegetable goodness.

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Darn BlackBerry photos don't want to be emailed to my computer so I can upload here - the package is green and white with black lettering, says "Sliced Mustard Tuber" in English along with beaucoup info in Chinese, 3 of them are in a cellophane overwrap and they are about 3" x 6". There are other versions that are smaller and in thinner printed foilish packages. (I could have memorized several more Emily Dickinson poems with the brainpower I expend on thinking about this stuff...)

                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      Is it shelf stable or is it in the fridge section?

                                      ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Was in a box at the end of the toploading open freezers in my market, but it's definitely shelf-stable.

                                           
                                          1. re: buttertart

                                            Hmmmm...I might have to ask when I get there. They have "dried marinated mustard"--think that could be the same thing?

                                            http://www.unitednoodles.com/catalog2...

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              Don't think so, that's a mustard green. This is a sort of kohlrabi lumpy thing pickled.

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Dry-fried Green Beans

                                I've actually made this a bunch of times, following recipes online or trying to do it without a recipe. Last time I screwed up big time (how?? Can't remember, but it was inedible) and since I now have the book *and* a pickled vegetable, I thought I'd try following this recipe! It wasn't even on my list for the week, but my grocery store had yard long beans! This was a miraculous occurrence as they don't even always have bok choi. I love long beans and think they work well in this dish. For the pickled vegetable, I wasn't able to find what she was calling for, so I bought whatever it is that is in the picture I attached. All I know is it's Thai and it's cabbage. It's been lurking in my cupboard for a while, and I've been really afraid to use it. The jar just looks so old and nasty, and there is the sketchy picture on the front. But I bravely opened it and even tasted it before putting it in and it was fine. Crunchy, slightly sweet and sour. Loved it as usual, and I didn't have to make my kids a separate meal - 13 month old DS ate the meat and 3 year old DD ate the beans (with the meat and "stuff" carefully removed. Served it with japanese short grain rice as I usually do, I just like the combo. Makes a tiny bit of meat go a loooong way.

                                 
                                 
                                 
                                1. re: sarahcooks

                                  What a great review sarah, I loved your walk-through on the pickled veg you had!! Great pictures too, I guess those are supposed to be the "double apricots" on the label!! Love the absent expiry date on the lid!! I could totally relate. I too have a number of jars and cans lurking in my pantry that I pull out from time to time, dust off and then carefully tuck away again!! Thanks for the inspiration!

                              2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Dry-Fried Green Beans, version 2
                                LOP, page 290

                                I have a HUGE bag of haricot verts purchased at Costco and have been missing the dry-fried beans from my favorite restaurant. In the past, I have used Martin Yan's recipe to some success, but have always felt that blanching the beans made them soggy. So, tonight I gave this recipe a chance.

                                Yea!!! These are wonderful! I probably didn't sautée the beans quite long enough on the first fry, but I always prefer my beans under vs over-cooked. I used Tien-Tien peppers, the Sichuan peppers, and both the garlic and ginger.

                                Much prefer this version to Yan's and the amount of oil isn't actually any more.

                                EDIT: I may have put this in the wrong place. This is the vegetarian version with no preserved vegetables or pork.

                              3. Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd (Ma Po Tofu) pp 313-314, LOP

                                We loved this dish. I did, however, make several modifications to make it Weight Watchers Core friendly, yet, I don't think they affected the overall outcome of the meal in a negative way, at least in my opinion. I've read that this dish is supposed to be oily and have a slick of oil sitting on top, so, if you're a traditionalist, you might say that our dish didn't come out right because it was missing the essential oil slick. Ours obviously was not oily, but it was still delicious. My favorite Dunlop recipe yet.

                                ~We used scallions instead of baby leeks (for availability reasons)
                                ~We used 1 tsp of peanut oil instead of 1/2 cup.
                                ~We used 2 fresh chiles instead of the 2 tsp ground chiles (I'd read somewhere in one of the links I found said that the fresh chiles are tamer than the 2 tsp of ground Sichuanese chiles "only for chile fiends" the recipe calls for so we used those because I'm too chicken to use the ground stuff!)
                                ~We used regular chicken stock instead of everyday stock (haven't made the everyday stock yet)
                                ~We used 1/2 tsp of agave nectar instead of 1 tsp white sugar

                                Loved loved loved this dish and will definitely make it again!

                                Photo attached (the dish in the foreground is the Beef with Cumin I posted about in the meat thread. I'm sorry I don't have a good head-on photo of the ma po tofu--they were all very overexposed.)

                                EDIT: I meant to also mention that we had the ma po tofu, the beef cumin, wild rice, and a side of steamed broccoil--this was a meal for four with generous servings, I thought, or a meal for two, twice. Also, the reason for the strange red bowl is that she said something like, serve it in a deep bowl and those red plastic bowls (which are my "on the patio" bowls for summer) are the only ones I had that fit that description. It would have been fine, I thought, in a regular soup bowl, though, maybe only because we reduced the amount of oil. If you had more oil, maybe the deeper bowl is necessary to keep from having a big mess.

                                ~TDQ

                                 
                                60 Replies
                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  DQ:

                                  I'm glad you like the Ma Po Do Fu. I've made it twice and also love it. The tanginess/heat of the flavoring with the meat and the creamy do fu is a marvelous combo.

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    Ditto. And, it's helpful to know that less oil can be used. This dish, with a bowl of rice, is pure comfort food for me.

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      do you think I could substitute ground pork for the beef? How much presence did the meat have?
                                      I'm not much of a ground meat person and think I could tolerate pork more than ground beef.

                                      1. re: NYchowcook

                                        Ground pork is the traditional garnish(tho' my favorite Sichuan restaurant's vegetarian version is so good you don't miss it).

                                        Also, I can't imagine reducing the oil quantity. Ma po dou fu is supposed to be a rich, unctuous, comforting dish and the slick of vibrant, crimson oil is an important part of the experience.

                                        Dunlop's recipe is pretty dead on...I wouldn't go about substituting willy-nilly.

                                        1. re: NYchowcook

                                          NYchowcook, I think that might work. Dunlop mentions that the meat can be omitted entirely for vegetarians and the dish will still be enjoyable. I assume that means the meat is not completely central.

                                          I used smaller tofu cubes than Dunlop describes and will do so again. Traitor that I am, though, I also added some vegetables in before the pork, so that is perhaps why I liked the smaller cubes. I, too, found that half a cup of oil was unnecessary. I used 4T. But I noted to myself that I might like to try it with more.

                                          1. re: NYchowcook

                                            NYchowcook, actually, I've tried ground beef in this dish and didn't especially love it. It's too earthy or something--can't quite put my finger on it. That having been said, the meat is a very small presence in this dish and I agree with saltwater that you might just leave it out--I think that would be better than subbing ground beef.

                                            And, yes, reducing the quantity of oil is just fine if you don't want the oil slick on top, which I did not. I'm a fan of this dish and have eaten and enjoyed it at many Sichuan restaurants and I understand it's supposed to come with an oil slick, but I think it tastes great--and has a glorious texture with the tender tofu-- without the oil slick, too.

                                            We're not training to be classical cooks here; we're home cooks looking to put meals on the tables for our families within their various needs and desires and limitations. We do the best we can with what we have.

                                            ~TDQ

                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              In our area Farmer John has a very low fat course ground pork that I use in lots of Asian dishes calling for fattier cuts.

                                            2. re: NYchowcook

                                              I also have a vague memory of a thread that referenced subbing in ground turkey as well. As TDQ stated, there is minimal meat and it's just used to add a bit more flavor and texture to the dish. The bit more flavor is relative since the dish has a complex taste with the various components.

                                          2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            made and loved the mapo tofu this weekend . . . used ground pork instead of beef, and slightly less oil, not missed at all. Thx to whoever suggested simmering ginger in plain chicken broth to get an approx correct stock.

                                            opening the salted black beans for the first time I was struck by how strongly they smelled like tamari/soy sauce. I can store these in a tight jar in a dark closet, right?

                                            szechuan pepper is totally addictive
                                            I put it in a quickie rice dish of leftovers -- the remaining ground pork, sliced shitakes, 1/8t cinnamon, one star anise, 1t sugar, some chili flakes, tingly sichuan peppers
                                            Nice! That's a variation on something in the Seductions of Rice book.

                                            Anyone know why the fresh shitakes sold in chinatown are so much plumper than the ones I get in organic markets/greenmarkets? They seem like a totally different mushroom.

                                            1. re: pitu

                                              You're supposed to be able to store the beans in a tightly sealed jar in a cool, dark place, but I put mine in double baggies in the fridge. I was never sure my apartment cupboards were cool enough.

                                            2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                              I made the ma po dou fu the other night and was frankly underwhelmed. It was spicy (which I like) but the flavors did not seem balanced. And it took much longer to make than reading the recipe had me thinking. I pretty much followed the directions, though used long green garlic stems (looked like leeks) from Asian grocery, omitted meat, used about 4 T peanut oil, and served over short grain brown rice.

                                              Soaking the beans, roasting and grinding the peppers (I tried a mortar and pestle but then realized it would be midnight before I ate, so I tossed into mini food processor), simmering my homemade chicken stock in ginger (good idea MMRuth!), and oops! need to get the rice cooking. And hey! I wanted to use the potato flour I procured, but Fuchsia called for cornstarch, so that's what I used.

                                              I'll try again but I would prefer a tofu and vegetable dish. Maybe next time I'll add bok choi.

                                              1. re: NYchowcook

                                                Oh, I'm so sorry you were disappointed, but fortunately, there are many other dishes to try in the Dunlop books--I'm sure you'll find one that suits your tastes better. Personally, I love this dish both out at restaurants and at home. Too bad about not getting to use your potato flour. On page 64 of Land of Plenty Dunlop says she used potato flour to test all the recipes in the book (she then proceeds to seemingly contradict herself by calling for cornstarch in some of the recipes...) and mentions that cornstarch is an acceptable substitute, but that you need 50% more cornstarch than potato flour. Since you've got the potato flour, if I were you, next time, I'd convert the recipe in order to do so.

                                                Forgive me for asking, but where are people getting the idea that the fermented black beans must be rinsed? I looked at pg 54 pantry section of LOP and Dunlop doesn't say anything about that. I checked the pantry section of RC, too, as well as the recipe for ma po tofu in LOP. What am I missing? I know the Tianjin preserved vegetables need to be rinsed, but I haven't been rinsing my black beans...

                                                By the way, once again I see the benefits of reading carefully her prelude--she mentions that as little as 3 TBSP of oil will work if you want to reduce the amount of oil in the recipe. I hadn't noticed that before.

                                                Finally, NYchowcook, I find, too, that if you skim the recipe and the ingredient list, these often look so much simpler and faster than they turn out to be. I've been stung by that a couple of times. I'm learning it's really important to read both the prelude to the recipe and the recipe itself very carefully, as well as the blurb in the pantry section about any ingredients that may be new to you.

                                                ~TDQ

                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  Regarding rinsing the black beans: I love both shrimp and clams in black bean sauce and both have been in regular dinner rotation for quite some time. Every recipe I've tried calls for either soaking or rinsing the black beans and then chopping them. Although Dunlop calls for neither, I had presumed prior to my experience with the COTM books that this was fairly standard practice. Evidently others have as well. I've only made one Dunlop recipe so far that called for unrinsed, whole black beans and thought the dish a bit too salty. No idea whether or not the beans were the culprit in that instance or not. But if anyone does find a dish that uses the fernented beans too salty, I would recommend that if they give it another go they try rinsing the beans first to see if that helps.

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    I can't remember which dishes off hand, but I've made two from RCC with the fermented beans, and both called for rinsing them.

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      Ah! And mine with beans was from LOP. Wonder if it could be a Sichuan/Hunan thing?

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        Oh dear--well, it sounds like I should be rinsing my fermented beans, then. Thank you for that, everyone.

                                                        ~TDQ

                                                      2. re: JoanN

                                                        Well, I've been rinsing the black beans in all the dishes I've made. And even at that the salty taste is quite pronounced. Previously to cooking the Dunlop recipes our diet was mainly low fat & low sodium so I suppose all the flavors are more pronounced now....

                                                        To quote Ming Tsai regarding the rinsing the beans, "This pungent ingredient is an ancient Chinese cooking staple. Always rinse the beans well before using to remove the excess salt. Store the beans away from light in a cool place and they will keep indefinitely." From his web site.

                                                      3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        on the fermented black bean issue...
                                                        Bittman in today's NYT focuses on *A Secret Staple Begging to Be Used*
                                                        He does a stir fry, adding black beans at the very end
                                                        http://video.on.nytimes.com/?fr_story...
                                                        he soaks the beans (in water or sherry) and then uses the soaking liquid in the dish.
                                                        which is surprising, with all the salt.

                                                        it's a fun article, comparing the extra something you get with the beans to truffles.
                                                        : )

                                                      4. re: NYchowcook

                                                        NYChowcook - so you omitted the meat? That does remove a great textural part of the dish. Try adding a drained can of whole kernal corn next time. I'll do that sometimes to my ground pork version of ma po do fu as well.

                                                        1. re: scoopG

                                                          I don't particularly care for the mouthfeel of ground meat, truth be told. The pork might balance it out, yes, but ground beef borders on repulsive to me (I don't eat hamburgers but did recently make a fab meatloaf a la Marcella which I liked alot)
                                                          I think I made a mistake -- I toasted chiles, not peppercorns, and ground them up.
                                                          I'm heading to Phila this weekend w/ a Penzey's store nearby so I think I'll buy some Sichuan peppercorns!

                                                        2. re: NYchowcook

                                                          NYchowcook, your report has me a little nervous. I'm planning to make the ma po dou fu meatless myself tomorrow night, along with the veg. green beans (and rice). I thought having read through both recipes that I could handle it all (especially having found the previous recipe I'd tried very easy to make) - keep in mind that I have a toddler underfoot - but now I'm worrying. I'm doing the MMRuth stock idea right now to save time tomorrow.

                                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                                            Honestly, I didn't find the ma po tofu recipe that time consuming (only one recipe has been easier and that's the steamed egg dish I tried)--maybe a half hour max? but there are a lot of steps.

                                                            Anything you can do on any of these recipes in advance is a good idea. I agree that prepping your stock with added ginger and scallions in advance is a great idea. Actually, I'l confess, I threw my stock+slice of ginger and some scallions in the microwave for about a minute and a half the other day because I was short on time. Not a perfect solution, but not a terrible solution in a pinch.

                                                            It also sounds like you can do the ground beef ahead of time (but you're going meatless, right?) I hope you try scoopG's corn recommendation and report on that.

                                                            Also, if you prep all your ingredients first and line them up in the order you toss them in, that helps. I don't really have little bowls for doing that, but I do have a set of small juice glasses (maybe a little bigger than shot glasses) I use for that.

                                                            As far as grinding the peppercorn, I have a coffee bean grinder I use specifically to grind spices that worked fine for this recipe.

                                                            EDIT If you can, I'd pencil in a note (or put a post-it note in there) in your recipe RIGHT NOW reminding yourself to rinse the beans--since it doesn't say to do so in the recipe... If you think you need to, you can also pencil in a note at the beginning of the recipe to start the rice or whatever you plan to serve it with. Make sure to read through (as tempting as it is, try not to skim the recipe--I've made so many mistakes that way on these Dunlop recipes) the entire recipe, even the "prelude" part that doesn't seem like part of the recipe because sometimes she puts cooking or serving tips in there, too. It can't hurt to read the "pantry" section on any ingredients you're unfamiliar with, too, because sometimes she mentions some helpful tips in there, too.

                                                            Good luck, I'm sure it will be great.

                                                            ~TDQ

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              Thanks so much for the calming cyber pat on the back. I'm feeling much better! I do always do as much prep work as I can before, and am pretty organized as a rule (you really have to be if you're going to do this kind of cooking with a kid and a wonderful but semi-clueless husband). It makes me feel much better that you think that will help. By the way, like you I hadn't noticed in most of the recipes about rinsing the beans, but did in one or two. Kind of odd. Anyway, thanks again.

                                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                                LulusMom: In her Hunanese Pantry section of Rev.Chinese, Dunlop says that "Many people rinse them before use, which is what I tend to do." Even that statement is a bit vague re the word "tend".

                                                                It's great that folks are reporting back about black fermented beans' over-saltiness and being guinea pigs for the rest of us.

                                                                A grateful COM group thanks you all!

                                                          2. re: NYchowcook

                                                            NYchowcook, but I think at some point you have to adjust to taste - esp when you are removing the meat and the dish is tasting unbalanced. I added a little extra sichuan peppercorn, soy sauce and scallions to my mapo tofu, because that's what I like. Ingredients vary.

                                                            On that note, anyone wondering about the relative punch of their Kam Man acquired sichuan peppercorns v Penzy's? Mine tingle, but I bet they are old.
                                                            I ground mine with a marble mortar/pestle - the plastic one would have been useless and frustrating. It didn't take long.

                                                            The mapo tofu reheats well for lunch the next day, btw.

                                                            On fermented bean rinsing, I too took rinse and soak as standard practice based on salt packed capers and anchovies (and recalling someone writing about an oversalted bean experience)

                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                              pitu--I really want to get some Penzey's peppercorns. I can't recalll the brand I got from the Aisian market, but they seem really old and tired--not even enough to give my "hot and numbing" chicken any kick whatsoever...

                                                              ~TDQ

                                                              1. re: pitu

                                                                The Penzey's peppercorns I used for the Dan Dan noodle variation were of fantastic quality and very fresh. With just one bite, I really felt the "ma la" numbing and tingling effect (I toasted on the stove and ground mine in a coffee/spice grinder), much more than when I've used Sichuan peppercorns I bought in Boston in Chinatown or Super 88. Highly recommend.

                                                                1. re: pitu

                                                                  The peppercorns I bought from the chinese market weren't great. They also had a lot of the tasteless black seeds, twigs and some leaves. I did try and pick those out as I was toasting the peppercorns. But, because of the predominance of seeds, after I used the mortar and pestle, I put them through the strainer. The pepper adds some flavor, but it lacks the intense ma la sensation that I seek.

                                                                  Are the Penzey peppercorns seedless (only husks)?

                                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                                    Mine had a lot of little stems and twigs, too...

                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                      The Penzey's are definitely intense. They do have a few tiny stems and twigs, which I didn't remove. When I ground them, I just measured it out, toasted in a pan, put them through a grinder, and then through a small sieve.

                                                                      I just took a pic of what they look like straight out of the jar, if that helps:

                                                                       
                                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                                          Thanks. Those look much better. Mine are full of the flavorless black seeds.

                                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                                            I just looked closer and there are a few tiny seeds, but it's mainly husks. I read somewhere that it's just the husks that are to be used because the seed is flavorless, as you mention, and can add a gritty texture. I have the one-ounce jar for about $2.69, but for Dunlop ordered the 4 oz bag for $5.19.

                                                                            http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

                                                                      1. re: pitu

                                                                        After a dish to dish comparison, it's not even a contest. The Penzey's peppercorns were infinitely superior to the ones from the Asian market. This is on all counts, looks, smell and taste.

                                                                        Looks - the Asian market bag was full of black seeds. These were visible to the eye. The peppercorn husks were brown and not as copious in amounts as the seeds. Seeds seemed to predominate the bag. OTOH, the Penzey's bags were predominately husks. Also the husks were bigger (to my eye) than the other ones. Moreover, the husks had a slightly pinkish tinge to them.

                                                                        Smell - Bag from Asian market only had a slight peppercorn bag. Penzeys was more potent.

                                                                        Taste - Asian bag gave the dish a little extra addictive taste but it lacked the ma la tingling sensation. Even adding almost twice as much as the recipe called for, there was only a slight peppercorn flavor to it. Penzey's was replete with flavor and ma la sensation. I actually stayed to the recipe's recommendation on the dish to test out the flavor. It's still slightly under to my taste buds but only a hair so.

                                                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                      Pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd (LOP, pg. 313)

                                                                      This is a staple in my house. And, for whatever reason, I always add way too much corn starch add the end. I get impatient and it takes the cornstarch longer to thicken than I think it does. It’s still tasty though.

                                                                      This time, instead of ground beef, I tried using corn kernels instead. I don’t think I added enough because I didn’t notice them at all in the dish. But, I do love how the tofu soaks in all the wonderful flavors of the sauce.

                                                                       
                                                                      1. re: beetlebug

                                                                        So I'm not the only one with the corn starch problem. I'll try to learn from my mistake to be a bit more patient next time.

                                                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                                                          The sad thing is, I just haven't learned since I do it every time.

                                                                          1. re: beetlebug

                                                                            fwiw, I used about 3/4 of what she has you mix up -- the recipe specifies adding gradually what you need
                                                                            I am skeeved by over-corn-starched so I naturally held back

                                                                            1. re: pitu

                                                                              pitu, have you tried potato flour instead of corn starch? It's much lighter, I think. You do have to adjust the proportions (per the instructions in the "pantry section"--I can't recall whether it was in LOP or RC, maybe both)--but you might be happier with the texture.

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              ~TDQ

                                                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                YES, i noticed that part of this discussion with great interest
                                                                                and I'll get potato flour some other time

                                                                                and use a moderate hand in the meantime!
                                                                                I *like* the silky cornstarch feel -- I just associate OVER-corn-starched with bad Chinese food I've had in restaurants, and icky processed food

                                                                                1. re: pitu

                                                                                  Corn starch always makes me think of the awful clam chowder served in many restaurants...the one you can stand a spoon in.

                                                                        2. re: beetlebug

                                                                          Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd (LOP)

                                                                          Well, my first time making this classic Sichuan dish, and add me to the fan club - I loved this. E doesn't like tofu so I have the whole batch to myself. BB, I can see why this is comfort food for you. It's so delicious. I actually had thirds last night. In fact, loading the pics, I got hungry and am eating a big bowlful over rice right now - as Pitu mentions, it heats up great for lunch or a snack. I used all the tips from those who made this previously, including rinsing the black beans and watching the amount of cornstarch. I really enjoyed the savoriness of the ground beef in it. I used the optional 2 tsp of ground dried chiles (used a spice grinder), and substituted Chinese chives for the leeks. I'll be making this again and again. I've really grown to absolutely love tofu with the recipes in this book.

                                                                           
                                                                          1. re: Rubee

                                                                            Beautiful photo, Rubee! We ate all of our dinner last night before I thought of pix. Duh.

                                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                                              Ooh - I'm going to do that (sub the chives for the leeks) - I bought one bag of chives and so far have made three recipes with them and still have lots more! How many did you use?

                                                                              1. re: mirage

                                                                                Hi Mirage! Yes, I really liked the Chinese chives in it - I need to use this vegetable more. I think I used about 3/4 of a cup of sliced chives.

                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                    Well, I FINALLY got around to making the Ma Po Dou Fu using leeks, all of the oil, Penzy's peppercorns, and about 2/3 of the cornstarch mixture. Loved, loved, loved this!! Long ago Galleygirl noted that this dish was "Company Perfect the first time." I completely agree.

                                                                                    Served with rice and the boiled dumplings from Beyond the Great Wall for a terrific Friday night dinner.

                                                                                1. re: Rubee

                                                                                  One of my favorites from this book, and I make it a couple of times a month for lunches since I work at home. Just wanted to note that I've never used the full amount of cornstarch mixture. In fact, now I use 2 Tb cornstarch to 3 Tb of water, and only use about half of that.

                                                                                  Latest batch this week (I also increase the chili paste to 3-4 spoonfuls):

                                                                                   
                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                    Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd (LOP)

                                                                                    Well, 5 years later and this is still part of my regular rotation. So good. Tonight I used ground pork and I'itoi onions from the garden.

                                                                                     
                                                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                                                      Made this recently as well after a hiatus (why?) and loved it.

                                                                                       
                                                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                  I just made this for the second time. The only changes I made were to use ground pork instead of beef and chopped scallions instead of leeks. It's just sooooo good, and once you have all the ingredients fairly easy to make. Right now I'm eating the leftovers, mixed over some noodles (there wasn't enough left for a full serving on its own), and it's delicious. Perfect hangover food. Mapo tofu is one of those things I just crave occasionally, and since there's no restaurants I know of around here that serve it I'm thrilled to be able to make it myself. Thank you Fucshia Dunlop for yet another excellent meal.

                                                                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                    I made this last night - it's a great rendition of the dish, we loved it. Used ground pork instead of beef because that was what I had (and have had it with pork many times). Used the leeks that Peapod sent me a while back (in the very odd grocery calculus that is Peapod pricing, they're much cheaper than in the city). Used more broth to compensate for only using 2tb of the 1/2 c oil it calls for. M, whose favorite doufu dish this isn't, couldn't stop eating it.

                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                      Ma Po Tofu p 313-314, Land Of Plenty

                                                                                      Inspired to finally make this version after trying another version in The Gourmet Cookbook that was good, but not great. I made this with 1.5 T oil (half recipe) and ground pork- everything else was as written including the facing heaven dried peppers for chile fiends. This recipe lived up to my expectations and more. The perfect way to beat the cooler weather.

                                                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                        Pock-Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd (Ma Po Dou Fu) – p. 313 Land of Plenty

                                                                                        First time I’m reporting on this dish but I’ve made it using this recipe on several occasions now. Since the prep for this dish has been well covered above, I thought I’d just weigh in with some random thoughts on my preferences and, some steps I’ve adapted to simplify prep.

                                                                                        OBSERVATIONS:

                                                                                        I believe this dish is at its best when made with ground pork and I find 4 oz to be the perfect amount. I’d rather have no meat than use ground beef, which in my opinion, completely overpowers the dish.

                                                                                        I prefer freshly made, organic, firm tofu for this recipe. FD doesn’t specify a firmness for her tofu but from trial and error I feel firm is best. I always drain it and give it a good squeeze in paper towel before cutting it to remove the excess moisture. I used to “press it” by placing it in a sieve under a heavy can but ultimately found that step to be unnecessary. (more about tofu in my Prep Notes)

                                                                                        I’ve tried a variety of oils for this dish and I’ve varied the quantities. I do believe the best results are achieved by using peanut oil but I only use 3tbsp. and I still feel the finished dish has the requisite and expected richness. (NB: I tend to prefer sesame oil for Asian dishes but peanut is far superior here).

                                                                                        IMHO, 4 tbsp of cornstarch is completely unnecessary. I use 1 slightly heaped TBSP of cornstarch dissolved in 3 TBSP of the stock (the same stock I use in the dish).

                                                                                        I’ve made my own stock and I’ve used canned for this dish. I can honestly say I do not notice any difference so Swanson’s canned broth is now my go-to for this dish. (more about the broth in my Prep Notes)

                                                                                        IMHO: The dish tastes better if you rinse your black beans.

                                                                                        Since I cannot always find Sichuanese chiles, I find that 2 TBSP of Chili Bean Paste is a good substitute. I’ve been known to add more after tasting since I find the paste does seem to lose its potency in the fridge (or maybe I lose taste buds with age!)

                                                                                        Having used baby leeks, ramps, the white part only of mature leeks and green onions, I totally prefer the flavour of green onions, which I add just before my cornstarch slurry. I also keep a handful on hand to use as garnish to give the dish a fresh kick and, a nice crunch.

                                                                                        Soy Sauce: I’ve used light soy sauce and regular and have never noticed a discernable difference. I measure my soy into a small dish and stir in the sugar since these ingredients are added at the same time.

                                                                                        PREP NOTES:

                                                                                        I love recipes that organize ingredients in the order they’re used in a recipe so I have a sticky note in this book that sorts things out in that order to make my life easier.

                                                                                        Tofu: I like my tofu in ¾” cubes for this dish, 1” just seems too big. Instead of keeping my tofu warm in water and draining it prior to adding it to my wok, I’ve found I can make my life much easier by just dumping all my (firm …see above) tofu in a small pan as I cube it and then I simply pour in the 1 cup of broth and place the pan on the stove at a med-low heat. Then I just dump the pan into my wok when FD says to add the broth (since she has you add the tofu immediately thereafter anyway).

                                                                                        Broth: As I mentioned above, I use Swanson’s Chicken broth. The flavours of this dish seem more authentic to me when garlic and ginger are used. The best way I’ve found to incorporate them is by stirring them right into my broth. I put 2 cloves of garlic and about a TSP sized piece of ginger in my mini-Cuisinart and give them a good mince before adding them to the broth that I pour over my tofu.

                                                                                        Sichuan "Peppercorns": I love these and have found that they are at their best when roasted prior to grinding. This can be a pain because it takes time. So now, when I purchase Sichuan pepper I toast off approx 1/4 cup then I dump it into a pepper grinder (that I only use for Sichuan pepper). That way I have toasted Sichuan pepper on hand to be ground as needed. I purchased my grinder at The Spice House in Chicago.

                                                                                        ETA: buttertart, if by chance you should read this post, I'd love to hear from you whether (or what) meat is traditional in this dish.

                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                          Wow! Thanks, BC, for reminding us what COTM is all about. Brilliant report. Will never again make Ma Po Dou Fu without first checking this now bookmarked post.

                                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                                            Joan, thank-you and how kind of you. Your posts on COTM threads and those of Rubee drew me to Chowhound in 2010 and I sincerely appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

                                                                                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                                                            Beef is used a bit more in Sichuan cooking than in a lot of the cuisines, but plenty of mapo doufu has ground pork in it -- I usually use pork.
                                                                                            By the way, in case anyone's been wondering why food from the New World (peppers, etc) got such a foothold in Sichuan, it's understood to be because just prior to their introduction the population of Sichuan (and to some extent Hunan) was practically wiped out by homicidal despots and the area was much more receptive to new foodstuffs as it was resettled and replanted.

                                                                                          3. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                            Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd (Ma Po Dou Fu) Pg. 313, Land of Plenty

                                                                                            It only took me 5 years to get around to making this super delicious dish and like everyone else we loved it. I played it pretty straight but did adjust a few of the measurements and ingredients: 2 T peanut oil, omitted the meat, 2 T chili bean paste, 1 t ground chili, vegetable stock. 1 T cornstarch to 3 T water...everything else as written. In spite of that the finished dish was spicy and saucy which melded perfectly into the tofu. Frankly I had my doubts about the leeks being cooked thoroughly but had no reason to fear.

                                                                                            These tofu dishes are absolutely wonderful... in all her books. Jasmine rice, and Sweet Corn Kernels with [everything but] Green Peppers on page 299 were served as well.

                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                              Thanks for reminding me that it's way past time to make this again. Love that dish, and love the LOP version best.

                                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                                So glad you loved this Gio. It's my favourite comfort food and I'm craving it as a result of your post...and I'm guessing Joan is too!! ; )

                                                                                            2. This is for vegetables AND bean curd, right?
                                                                                              I made the Fish-Fragrant Eggplant on p.285

                                                                                              Overall, I'd say nice but not spectacular, but I think that's just a matter of taste on my end. I think I strongly favor SEAsian flavors over traditional Chinese.
                                                                                              Anyway, nice hits of fresh ginger, and my first use of the chili-bean paste. AND another venue for the Chinese Black Vinegar I have hanging around for dipping sauce. The Chinese Vinegar contributes to a really nice complexity.

                                                                                              I'll be trying different kinds of chili-bean paste because that's the foundation, and using less oil in the sauce. The recipe said 2-3 T. I used peanut oil. Since there's broth and other liquids involved, and the bean paste is oily, I'd use more like 1T in the future.

                                                                                              That mapo tofu is really high on my list - it's one of my favorite dishes.
                                                                                              Could people say which brands of specialty ingredients they are using? Decoding the various combinations of chili-fermented beans-etc is the biggest challenge for me here...

                                                                                              9 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: pitu

                                                                                                Yes, this thread's for vegetables AND bean curd...

                                                                                                I posted a photo of the ingredients I used for the ma po tofu (and the cumin beef) here http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49466... except for the fermented beans. I can look that up later for you, but, I had two choices at the store I was at and the gal told me one was "too dried out" and encouraged me to get the one I got.

                                                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                                                1. re: pitu

                                                                                                  I use Ming Teh Industries Broad Bean w/ Chili(sic) and Garlicky Pepper. I have yet to find any Pixian pastes.

                                                                                                  1. re: pitu

                                                                                                    I used Lan Chi brand, which appears to only have broad beans, and no soy. It is a dark red paste. Dunlop mentioned that the darker ones are "mature", though I'm not sure what that means. I tried to secure a shot and attach it. I don't know the brand of the fermented black beans I used. I took them out of the original packaging. I used Kimlan soy sauce, but I'm not sure that is the best style of it (they have many to chose from).

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    1. re: saltwater

                                                                                                      were your fermented black beans dry or wet? In the Hunan book (haven't looked at the other one yet) she specifically said not to get the dry ones (without a reason). I was so proud several months ago when I found some dry ones after much much searching that I would be rather disappointed to have to go on yet another expedition.....

                                                                                                      (edited to add) now I see, I can't read; she said DO buy the dry ones NOT the wet ones

                                                                                                      1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                        Yes, mine were dry, but still not like little rocks. They have give to them. I also have an old jar of pre-made black bean with garlic sauce, but I don't like that nearly as well as mixing my own from the basics.

                                                                                                        I'm glad you found them. The first time I tried, I ended up with regular black (turtle, mexican, etc.) beans in a can, and not soy beans. I just love how people can post a picture on this site of the actual food product, so others will know what to aim for. I'm glad I found chowhound.

                                                                                                        1. re: saltwater

                                                                                                          Hmm - mine are in a bag, but seem kind of moist.

                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                            the "dry" ones I got in a bag are kind of moist (tender); not like dried 'whatever" beans; so I think it's the right thing

                                                                                                            1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                              It sounds to me like you have the right item. They have a soy fragrance and can be squished and have slightly wrinkled appearance. See the photo.

                                                                                                               
                                                                                                              1. re: saltwater

                                                                                                                Oh Oh - mine are in a jar. :-( Brand: Comrade Food. Salted Black Beans. This what happens when one pulls recipes from the net - usually no notes.
                                                                                                                Back to the store we go.....

                                                                                                  2. LOP, page 157, Red Bell Pepper with Sesame Oil--this is one of the variations of the "Bitter Melon with Sesame Oil" recipe Dunlop cites at the bottom of page 157. Super simple, quick, very refreshing. We used four red bell peppers. I didn't even need to modify the recipe (oh, wait, I still am using just plain old chicken stock rather than Dunlop's stock...)

                                                                                                    We had this as a side dish for "beef slivers with water bamboo" pg 105 of RC, which I'll post about in the meat thread.

                                                                                                    ~TDQ

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                                                      If you have time the next time you need stock, I'd simmer the chicken stock with some ginger and scallions - gives it a wonderful flavor.

                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                        I think that's a terrific suggestion, thank you. I've been worrying that I've been missing the hint of ginger that goes into Dunlop's "everyday" stock every time I use just regular chicken stock, so, I think your idea is a good one.

                                                                                                        In response to pitu, the brand of fermented beans I'm using is MeeChun-- and it's labeled "salted black beans".

                                                                                                        ~TDQ

                                                                                                    2. Home-Style Bean Curd (Hunan, p. 186)

                                                                                                      This is our second tofu dish this week - a record for us! I think having some pork in the dish makes my husband enjoy it more. This was another instance where I should have used my dutch oven instead of a skillet to cook the toful - I didn't think 3 T of peanut oil could cause so much splatter. Even though I did dry the pieces a lot, there must still have been residual water. I don't think her cutting instructions are so clear - I had one large block of tofu, so I sliced it into 1/2 inch thick slices, cut each into four squares, and then into triangles. Because I was making two stir fry dishes, I prepared this one up to the point where I included the tofu back in the pan, with the dark soy sauce, and then turned off the heat. When the other one was almost done, I heated it up again and added the potato flour and scallions. Delicious dish, a bit spicy.

                                                                                                       
                                                                                                      16 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                        Good morning MMRuth. How would you compare the Hunan homestyle tofu to the Sichuan homestyle tofu (assuming you made mapo tofu..?)

                                                                                                        1. re: pitu

                                                                                                          I've not made mapo tofu - cooking (and pretty much eating) tofu is new to me!

                                                                                                        2. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                          I think tofu cutting preference is like sandwich cutting preferences. I'm a triangle sandwich eater and a rectangle/square block tofu cutter. I have a hard time switching if a recipe has me cutting the other shape.

                                                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                            Homestyle Bean Curd, Bear Claw Variation, Pg. 315, Land of Plenty

                                                                                                            In my attempt to eat less meat I've been cooking tofu for one meal each week. Last night it was this sweet/salty/mildly spicy dish. We both liked it very much. Well, we love Dunlop's recipes as a whole and this one was especially delicious. The bear claw designation comes from the fact that when the little pillows of bean curd are stir-fried they look like frizzled claws. Also, in this preparation the bean curd is not deep fried but simply sauteed in the wok with just a little peanut oil. There are two options here: one may include 1/4 pound of lean bacon, and buy deep fried tofu at the market. Obviously, I didn't take advantage of either option.

                                                                                                            So... heat the oil in a wok or very wide fry pan, add sliced bean curd (I cut about 1 1/2 inch cubes), fry till puffy and just golden. Remove the bean curd from the wok and set aside. Chili bean paste is now added and stir fried for a bit, then chopped garlic and ginger are fried till fragrant. Add chicken stock and bean curd, bring to boil, reduce heat, season with sugar and soy sauce, cook for a few more minutes. Sliced scallions are now added and cooked for another few minutes. Stir in a cornstarch slurry, thicken sauce then serve. Wonderful aromas emanated from the mixture!

                                                                                                            This is such a simple and homey tofu dish. It hit all the flavor notes one expects from Sichuanese cooking. Definitely deserves several repeat performances.

                                                                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                                                                              This "bear claw" variation, is very nice, isn't it? We've had good results not only in this recipe, but also applying the same frying technique to the "peng's homestyle bean curd" from RCC among others. Overall, I think I like the texture better than deep fried tofu.

                                                                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                Must try, my least favorite tofu style is deepfried.

                                                                                                                AGAIN with the misplacing of answers..this is to Gio and qianning above...

                                                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                  Buttertart, just wanted you to know that your reply Did come in under Qianning's post.

                                                                                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                                    buttertart have you ever tried the prepared fried tofu from Ying Ying at the St Lawrence Mkt when you visit Toronto? I love their tofu in general but I do think they've had the best fried tofu I've ever tasted.

                                                                                                                2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                  Thank you so much for pointing this one out, Gio. Husband finally actually pro-tofu, plus doctor just asked him to cut back on the meat so this will be a perfect meal to serve.

                                                                                                                  1. re: LulusMom

                                                                                                                    Oh good, LLM. I actually served it with the kohlrabi salad from "Jerusalem" and they went together very well...

                                                                                                                  2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                    If I understand correctly, when you refer to 'bear claw', this is soft tofu, sliced, that is wok-fried in just a touch of oil vs. deep fried? I've always wondered but have never been certain...

                                                                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                      Allegra, the bean curd used is firm tofu sliced in cubes and stir-fried in just a tablespoon or two of peanut oil.

                                                                                                                      It is not soft tofu and is not deep fried.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                        Super, thanks for clearing that up for me!

                                                                                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                                                                                      Joe, this sounds so good. Both the aroma and the taste :) Thanks.

                                                                                                                    3. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                      Home-Style Bean Curd, Pg. 186 - 187, Variation Version, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook

                                                                                                                      Having made the Bear Claw version of home-style bean curd I thought it a good idea to cook the what I take to be the original recipe. This has a few more ingredients than the bear claw but the procedure is the same: a couple of shiitakes, a small amount of lean pork slivers - which I omitted per the variation instructions - Shaoxing wine, chili bean paste, salted chilies - omitted - red pepper flakes, stock, potato flour slurry, scallions, sesame & peanut oils.

                                                                                                                      Mushrooms are hydrated; tofu is sliced into triangles then fried in a little peanut oil till golden, removed from wok to drain. Wipe out wok, add a little more oil, and fry chili bean paste, garlic, sliced mushrooms, and pepper flakes.. Add stock, return tofu to wok, and simmer for a few minutes. Pour in the slurry, stir to thicken, sprinkle sliced scallions over, take off heat and drizzle with sesame oil.

                                                                                                                      Once again large flavors here all contributing to the end result of a mildly spicy unctuous bean curd dish. Surprisingly filling too. Perfect for a braised bok choy and bean sprout side along with steamed basmati brown rice. There's nothing left except a little rice... we both enjoyed the meal very much.

                                                                                                                      P. S.: I note that when MMRuth made this she spoke of how much the tofu splattered when the pieces hit the wok for the first fry. Well, be aware that this will happen no matter how much the tofu it pressed and drained... Just "stay calm and carry on."

                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                        Appreciate the P.S. Gio, I've made a note in my book.