A Saucy Ma Po Tofu Variation!
Chen Mapo Doufu is the full name of any Ma Po Tofu recipe. The Chen family first created this tofu entrée long ago. Many chefs and Chinese restaurants separate the word Mapo into its two root words, Ma and Po. Ma is short for the word Mazi. Mazi refers to a disfigured person who has severe pockmarks or leprosy. Po translates to old woman. So, Ma Po literally translates to "old pock marked woman."
There is a few stories about the origin of Mapo Tofu. Apparently a Chen family member was an old pock marked woman and she sold this tofu entrée and beef to travelers on a busy trade route on. Mapo Tofu soon became popular with laborers and hard working people. The old woman made enough money to open her own restaurant and her specialty was her own Mapo Tofu recipe. Beef was added to the recipe by customer request.
The original Mapo Tofu was spicy hot and only enough dark chile paste sauce was made to coat the ingredients with flavor. Mapo Tofu can be made saucy, when noodles or rice are served on the side. Adding Sriracha Sauce is the easy way to make Mapo Tofu extra saucy.
Fresh seafood is traditionally used near the coastline and dried seafood is traditionally used inland. The tiny Dried Shrimp in today's Mapo Tofu recipe adds a savory umami flavor.
Szechuan Pepper comes from a Prickly Ash Tree. Plenty of Szechuan Pepper was added to the original Mapo Tofu recipe. Szechuan Pepper numbs the mouth, so back in the old days when this entrée was first served, poor laborers with bad teeth were able to enjoy a good meal with less dental pain. The high amount of Szechuan Pepper in Mapo Tofu became a tradition.
Today's recipe is a saucy version of Mapo Tofu that features a popular combination of dried shrimp, onions and Sriracha Sauce. Tomato puree is added too. This saucy entrée is meant to be served family style with rice or noodles on the side. The Mapo Tofu and as much of the spicy sauce that a guest prefers can be placed on the starch accompaniment. Plenty of mild chile peppers and mild chile pepper sauce is in this recipe, so it is pleasantly spicy hot.
Dried Shrimp, Onion and Sriracha Mapo Tofu:
This recipe yields 2 portions.
Step 1: Soak 1/4 cup of tiny dried shrimp in 1/2 cup of water for 1 hour in a refrigerator.
*Do not drain off the soaking liquid.
Step 2: Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
Add 3 crushed garlic cloves.
Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
Briefly stir fry for a few seconds till the garlic and ginger become aromatic.
Step 3: Add 3/4 cup of small chopped onion.
Add 1 or 2 thin sliced jalapeño peppers.
Add 2 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper.
Stir fry till the vegetables start to become tender.
Step 4: Add the soaked dried shrimp and the soaking liquid.
Add 1 cup of shrimp broth.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red bean paste. (red miso paste)
Stir till the bean paste becomes part of the sauce.
Step 5: Add 1/3 cup of Sriracha Hot Sauce. (Sriracha is a mild, semi sweet, garlic and red serrano chile pepper sauce.
Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.
Add 1 tablespoon of Hoisin Sauce.
Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Hot Red Chile Pepper Powder. (to taste)
Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground Szechuan Pepper.
Add sea salt to taste.
Step 6: Bring the sauce to a boil.
Step 7: Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
Step 8: Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces.
Add 6 large triangle shape pieces of firm tofu that are 1/2" thick. Each slice of tofu should weigh about 2 to 2 1/2 ounces.
Simmer till the tofu becomes hot.
Step 9: Remove the pan from the heat.
Use a serving spoon to overlap the tofu triangles across the center of an oval serving plate.
Spoon a little bit of sauce over the tofu.
Pour the rest of the sauce on the plate around the tofu.
Serve with 2 portions of steamed sticky rice or noodles on the side.
This saucy Dried Shrimp, Onion and Sriracha Mapo Tofu awakens the senses!