Sichuan-style minced beef & tofu with chinese greens

by Ray McVinnie | Cuisine issue #139
Serves: 6An extremely tasty dish, this is a favourite of mine and my recollection of the traditional Sichuan Ma Po tofu with minced beef I ate at the excellent Sichuan Da Ping Huo restaurant in Hong Kong.

I have used more beef than is traditional for this dish. This is a rich, very spicy-hot dish with the savour of beef, the silky texture of tofu and a dark sauce that I serve on steamed Chinese greens.

600g firm tofu, well drained
4 tablespoons soybean oil
2 tablespoons Chinese salted black beans, well rinsed, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, well drained and chopped
400g minced beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chilli bean paste (I used Master Sauce Fermented Chilli Bean Sauce)
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 spring onions, cut into 3cm lengths
50ml Shaoxing Chinese cooking wine or medium sherry
250ml chicken stock
salt to taste
300g Chinese greens such as baby bok choy, choy sum or gai lan, coarse stalks removed and cut into 10cm lengths, or bok choy quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon toasted lightly crushed Sichuan peppercorns
coriander sprigs for serving

Place the tofu between 2 plates, put a light weight on top and let it drain for 15 minutes or so until it becomes firmer and less likely to fall apart when cooked. Remove from the plates and cut into 3cm cubes then reserve.

Heat the oil in a wok over moderate heat and add the black beans and minced beef. Stir-fry until the water comes out of the mince, all the lumps are broken up and then the water evaporates and the beef browns and has an appetising caramelly aroma.

Add the ginger, garlic and chilli bean paste, and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the tofu and soy sauce, mix well and cook 1 minute then add the spring onions, cooking wine and stock, and mix well without breaking up the tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and season with salt. Keep hot.

Steam or boil the greens until tender but still crisp to the bite. Serve the beef and tofu on the greens and sprinkle the Sichuan peppercorns and coriander on top. Or serve everything separately for everyone to help themselves. Good with fresh rice noodles, dried egg noodles or steamed rice.

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