During my high school years, there was an anime that was aired in a local channel. It changed my life.
Yes! Cooking master boy. I was pretty much oriented and inspired by my father to a very basic Filipino way of cooking, the one pot style cooking. Add this, add this and add this then boil. That’s pretty much it. Everything tasted delicious and made people happy and that’s why I wanted to learn how to cook. The comes this anime. It somewhat intensified my desire to cook back then. So much to the point that I wanted the ‘Super Chef Seal (the one in his sleeve) to be tattooed in my arm. And I am still considering it.
The anime that certainly stood out. Everyday we were bombarded by violent animes, this was a very peaceful one. Although there was some violence here, there were more hurt feelings that hurt persons. And they do not kill each other. They just cook and beat the bad guys. Also, in this anime, the bad guys play fair.
Even then, I know a lot of the things they show there are bullshit. Even so, I laughingly said to myself that I will re-create the epicness they once showed me. It’s like every episode, there comes a guy with a certain trait and skills equal to, ah forget it, just look at these:
This is Steel Rod Shell. He claims to be the number 1 dimsum chef in all China. He can make paper thin dumpling skins with equal thickness using his steel rod as seen in the left part of the picture.
And this buff guy here is named Al, the younger of the two dumpling brothers. He can swing hot metal balls in the air weighing close to a full grown man each, punch them open. At first I thought he’s just training, apparently he’s frying dumplings in them.
AND THIS. This has gotta be one of my favorites in the whole series!
Believe it or not, that majestic looking this is actually a dumpling. The Ascending Dragon Dumpling as Mao calls it. It’s nothing but a shrimp dumpling (you can see the nose of the dragon is actually a shrimp head). The cool thing about this dumpling is that it can actually stand and move like a dragon! It’s easy to let it go if they said that the sheer skill and ability of Mao can make the dragon move. But noooooooooooooooo! They really have to provide us with a realistic explanation that will haunt me forever.
Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasically, the trick was he used two types of skin for the dumpling. The rate of expansion of the two skins are different when steam is blown in so the other is pulled by the other. But it still doesn’t explain why light exploded from the steamer when it was opened.
One last thing is the reactions of the people eating it. Luckily, there is a youtube video that compiled some of it.
But youtube fucked this part up for me. Fuck you youtube.
So from the things I showed you, you’d thing that this show is all mystical magics of cooking. That’s where you’re wrong. The protagonist’s mother, Pai, once cooked a simple dish that invigorated a very tired messenger that is now- –fuck. Let’s just say she cooked something really good and that was Mapo Tofu.
I looked at it and it looks fairly simple enough. Its basically tofu with a spicy sauce. But at my young age, the only method of cooking tofu was only to fry it. And the tofu here doesn’t look like it was fried so I got a little scared and left it rotting at the deepest darkest part of my mind.
A few years later, I researched the recipe but there was one ingredient that I can’t find. Szechuan Peppercorns. For 4 years, I’ve searched every grocery and supermarket I know but I saw nothing. Then I met my girlfriend which happened to be part Chinese and I asked her if she could ask her relatives about this coveted ingredient.
A week later, I now have the ingredient that took me 4 years to find. So what did I do? I started cooking.
I refreshed myself with the recipe, read a lot of blogs, combined them all and added my own touch. That’s how I came up with my own version of mapo tofu. Not very authentic, but who cares? I’m not after any legendary cooking utensils unlike Mao. Or am I?
Lets get started!
Now, cooking this is fairly simple. Chop, saute, add liquid, you know the drill.
Also, if you notice, this is actually my first uh, non-baked or non pastry post because… *insert sad music here*
A month ago I got my blood checked for my diabetes maintenance and it showed that I am failing. Failing at living basically. So had to stop making those for me to stop eating them.
And tofu was always my savior when I was looking for something filling without a large impact on my blood sugar. So yeah that’s is.
Ok now really, lets get started!
As a kid, I believed there are 2 types of tofu. The dirty one and the clean one. The clean one (it’s actually silken tofu) was the one with packaging. The dirty one was the one that had cloth marks on it and looks really… undesirable, for the lack of better term. And now, being of age, I know how to choose wisely.
I chose the dirty one because, well, its cheaper! And also because the silken tofu is actually softer and I assumed it will not withstand the poaching and frequent stirring in this dish.
I cut most of the tofu into large cubes and some of them into small cubes.
The real recipe calls for some red chili paste. But because I didn’t have one (I actually never had one) I opted to go to the easiest way out. Fresh chilleh!
Also, here’s a tip for you.
Yes, frozen ginger is very effective. Almost no loss in flavor and saves you most of the hassle. This is actually a lifesaver since we do not tend to use ginger everyday unlike onions and garlic that we can buy in bulk. When you buy ginger in bulk, it usually just wilts away. So yeah, it saves time and money, the two most important things in the world.
Now the major flavoring. Fermented Chinese Black beans. Or as we call it, Tausi.
This is the only brand I trust and this is the only one I use. I actually don’t know the brand, I just know it by the yellow plastic container. (Yes I have tried black beans in cans and tetras, they’re all crappy.) I read the writings on the packaging (which is very rare) and it actually says there the brand. And it did not change my life.
And of course, the meat.
And the thing that makes Map Tofu really a Szechuan dish…
If you think they look like shriveled flower buds, it’s because they are. They are no way related to black or white peppers.
I am convinced that these are actually Szechuan Peppercorns (pink peppercorns) but the greatest quality of this kind of pepper aside from its aroma is the numbing effect to your tongue which makes it perfect to pair with intensely spicy dishes. Though honestly, I don’t feel any. SO I guess I’m still lacking here. Nevertheless, it’s still the said ingredient.
As I said earlier, cooking this is very simple. Even a monkey can cook this! Or a pig.
Just saute all the ingredients together, minus the tofu.
Add water until it boils.
And add cornstarch to thicken it.
While my wok was boiling, I spent a good 15 mins searching for the damn box of cornstarch. Until I just gave up and decided to turn the flame down and run to the nearest grocery at 9:30 pm. Who wouldn’t?
It’s like you’re taking a shower, you’re already wet when you realized you’re out of soap. Wachugonnado?
So in record time, I ran through roads and dodge cars and jeeps.
Turned up the flame up again and made a slurry (that’s just chef talk for cornstarch and water).
Oh yeah! I the small diced tofu was fried.
Until it reaches golden, crunchy perfection!
I added this in the last minute for it not to soak up much of the sauce. It needs to stay crisp because this is a major player in the texture part of your dish.
Added the large cubed tofu and let it simmer for a minute, turned off the heat and… you be the judge.
Don’t they look great? I just remembered, the reason why I don’t post much stove-top dishes here is because they’re very hard to photograph! Luckily enough, an angel lend me her camera for me to play with! I am now a happy boy! 🙂
But I guess my tummy is happier!