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My Mum’s Japanese-style mapo tofu from ‘The Wok’

AP – J Kenji López-Alt has written a new cookbook with handy tips, fascinating asides and some 200 dishes all related to the wok. One recipe in The Wok is for a version of mapo tofu that is similar to what he ate growing up, though instead of plain ground beef his mum would use the dish as an opportunity to use up leftover dumpling filling.

Unlike the numbing-hot Sichuan version, this one is savoury and sweet, with the classic Japanese flavours of soy, and comes together even faster, if you can believe it. It’s one of López-Alt’s go-to meals for the family when you’re not in the mood for spicy foods and are craving saucy soft tofu.

MY MOM’S JAPANESE-STYLE MAPO TOFU
Serves: Four
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS
– One teaspoon (3g) cornstarch
– One tablespoon (15ml) cold water
– Two tablespoons (30ml) peanut, rice bran, or other neutral oil
– Four ounces (120g) ground beef
– Two teaspoons (5g) minced garlic
– Two teaspoons (5g) minced fresh ginger (about half-inch segment)
– Two scallions, chopped into quarter-inch pieces, dark greens reserved for garnish
– Two tablespoons (30ml) vinegar
– Two tablespoons (30ml) mirin
– One tablespoon (15ml) shoyu or light soy sauce
– Quarter cup (60ml) low-sodium chicken stock, dashi, or water
– One-and-a-half pounds medium to firm silken tofu, cut into half-inch cubes
– Steamed rice and chilli oil, for serving

DIRECTIONS
Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a small bowl and mix with a fork until homogenous. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat until smoking. Add the beef and cook, stirring constantly for one minute. Add the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites and pale greens and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Pour in the cornstarch mixture and cook for 30 seconds, until thickened. Add the tofu and carefully fold it in, being careful not to break it up too much.

Transfer immediately to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the scallion greens. Serve immediately with rice and chili oil.

Japanese-style mapo tofu. PHOTO: AP
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