My version of spicy tofu is milder, and the heat builds up slowly, tempered by sugar and vinegar in the mix. Spice level can be adjusted to taste. If you want something similar to tongue-numbing mapo tofu, however, go ahead and make the spicy chilli oil base of toasted Sichuan peppercorns, chilli pepper and birds-eye chilli. This healthy-ish dish is a pause between the holiday gorging, although it's nearly impossible not to have this with steamed rice. Try substituting white rice with red or black grains, or adlai, to lap up all that silken tofu and spicy sauce.
Cooking time: 15 minutes
300 grams silken tofu, cubed or cut in coins
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
200 grams ground pork (or OmniPork)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons water or chicken broth
2 tablespoons dashi paste or ssamjang
3 tablespoons gochujang
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white pepper grounds
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chilli oil*
*To make homemade chilli oil:
4 tablespoons chilli flakes
2 teaspoons ground Sichuan peppercorns
2 fresh birds-eye chilli
2 bay leaves
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup canola, sunflower or peanut oil
1. Heat vegetable oil in a wok at medium-high heat. Once oil sizzles, add onions. Allow onions to become translucent, before adding minced garlic and ginger. Allow aromatics to release their scent by tossing occasionally.
2. Set aromatics on edge of wok. Add ground pork. Stir-fry until soft and browned, about 5 minutes. Pour soy sauce and toss for about 3 to 5 minutes. Slowly pour water. Allow it to go on a rolling boil.
3. Add dashi paste, gochujang, vinegar, sugar and white pepper. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle salt to taste.
4. Stir in tofu cubes gently. Sprinkle cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water. Allow stew to thicken for about 3 minutes. Toss in green onions (optional).
5. Pour in chilli oil*. To make homemade chili oil ahead, check the ingredients above. Heat oil in a wok at medium heat, until it rolls into a simmering boil. Toss in spices and allow to cook on medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Pour over tofu stew and coat all over. Turn off heat and allow to slightly cool. Serve with steamed rice or adlai.