Chicken Mapo Tofu bowl + Finding common grounds in marriage
Can’t stop eating eating this one bowl dish at the Lébu Kitchen
Vivek & I have completely different tastes. Our tastes don’t match in food or movies or TV shows or the way we like to travel. It can be annoying sometimes and yet like every happy marriage you learn to traverse it , somehow. So, we make food that both of us like, if we order take-out we simply order from different places. We have no trouble, sitting down together on a couch ,snuggled in, watching different shows, but we watched ‘Stranger Things’ together. I love horror movies more than anything and lets just say he is not a big fan. So once, we booked tickets to the same theatre to go to two different movies, he watched another movie just so that he could be with me. Marriage. It is not compromise. Marriage is finding a way where both of us can be happy.
Vivek loves animé, he can watch it everyday, he is like a kid when he is watching them and I hardly like anything animated, forget animé; so when he suggested we watch animé show together, I was skeptical. But soon, I was sucked in to the world of the Japanese animé ‘Shokugeki na soma’ or ‘Food wars’ . The show is a surprisingly detailed account of a group of students, set in a cooking school ,Totsuki Saryo Culinary Institute, an elite culinary school located in Tokyo, Japan. The top student chefs occupy seats on the Council of Ten Masters. Students can initiate a shokugeki or ‘food war’ with any other student or alumni a cooking fight with stipulations on the line. The descriptions, the cooking, ingredients are detailed, makes me salivate and its all animated. I was hooked. In one of the episodes they make a Mapo Tofu which is a popular chinese dish from the sichuan province made of minced pork or beef and sichuan peppers. I wanted Vivek to enjoy it since he does not eat meat so I created a version with chicken.I also added in some Indian spices.
That was a day when both of us had the same dinner, food is the universal language of love. I also added in some Indian spices.
This is a great way to enjoy one a one bowl meal, add some rice and you have the solution to a great weeknight dinner
Notes: I did not have sichuan peppercorns so I used kerala peppercorns & some red chillies I had brought in from Bhutan. You can your hands on the Urban Platter Sichuan Pepper Corns here
I use a substitute for the traditional Doubanjiang & made it with with Miso paste
2 tbps Miso paste (adjust as per saltiness). I use something that Vivek got from Singapore. You can use the one form Urban platter here
2 TBPS freshly ground black pepper (you can use any other good pepper)
2 tsps grated ginger
A mix powder of these spices (2 star anises, 3-4 bay leaves, 1 small piece of cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, 2 cardamoms)
5. 2 tbps white vinegar
6. 1 TBPs oyster sauce (I use a brand that Vivek got from Singapore , you can use this….)
7.Cooled of 250 ml hot water
For the Tofu:
450g tofu (I use the Tofu brand that you get in Namdhari stores in Bangalore)
100g minced chicken
1 and ½ tablespoons Doubanjiang paste made above
1 tablespoon pepper flakes or powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon fresh ground powder
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
water or broth for braising (adjust as needed, it will be dry)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves,finely chopped
5 ginger slices, finely minced (around 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon sugar (optional for reducing the spiciness)
2 and ½ tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Add a small pinch of salt and sesame oil to minced chicken. Mix well and set aside.
Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 and ½ tablespoons of water in a small bowl to make water starch.
Cut tofu into square cubes (around 2cms). Bring a large amount of water to a boil and then add a pinch of salt. Slide the tofu in and cook for 1 minute. Move out and drain.
Get a wok and heat up around 2 tablespoons of oil, fry the minced chicken until crispy. Transfer out the chicken and leave the oil in.
Fry the doubanjiang paste for 1 minute over slow fire and then add garlic, spring onions, & ginger. Then mix pepper flakes in.
Add water to the seasonings and bring to boil over high fire. Gently slide the tofu cubes. Add light soy sauce and minced chicken .Slow the heat after boiling and then simmer for 6-8 minutes. Stir the water starch and then pour half of the mixture to the simmering pot. Wait for around 30 seconds and then pour the other half. You can slightly taste the tofu and add pinch of salt if not salty enough. By the way, if you feel it is too spicy, add some sugar can milder the taste. But be carefully as the broth is very hot at this point.
Transfer out when almost all the seasonings stick to tofu cubes. Sprinkle Szechuan peppercorn powder (to taste)and chopped garlic greens if using.
Serve immediately with steamed rice.