Mapo tofu is a staple dish in my house; I've been making it since I found the recipe for it on Appetite for China. It's really easy to buy some ground pork and freeze it in 6 oz portions. Three of the ingredients (black bean paste, chili bean paste, and Sichuan peppercorns) require specialty shops, but they don't go bad for a long time, so one you've gotten them, you're fine. I can never find fermented black beans, so I buy black bean paste from my local Korean supermarket. I buy the chili bean paste there as well. I get the Sichuan peppercorns from Penzeys. The sauce is a great mix of spicy and savory, and the Sichuan peppercorn provides an interesting tingle on the tongue. That said, don't overdo it with the peppercorns or your mouth will feel strange. I don't think this dish is terribly wine friendly, so I drink almond milk with it.
The leeks where I live can be huge - the size of my forearm! So sometimes I only use one. Use your best judgment and if your leeks are gigantor, just stick to one or the dish will taste like mapo leeks instead. Leeks can be filled with grit, so to clean them, slice off the root end and the green parts. Then cut them in half lengthwise. Hold each half under some cold water and spread the layers apart a little to wash out all the dirt.
Adapted slightly from Appetite for China
Serves 2 as a main dish
1 block soft or medium-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 oz ground pork
2 leeks, green parts discarded and thinly sliced at an angle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp fermented black beans (or black bean paste)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 4 Tbsp cold water
3 or 4 thinly sliced scallions for garnish (or more, if you prefer).
1) Cook the pork. Heat a large wok medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add the pork and stir-fry until crispy and starting to brown but not yet dry, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, then add leeks, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2) Add the black bean paste, chili bean paste, and ground Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the oil is a rich red color.
3) Pour in the stock and stir well. Mix in the drained tofu gently. Don't stir it aggressively or the tofu will crumble. And the rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the tofu has absorb the flavors of the sauce.
5) To thicken the sauce, add the cornstarch mixture, a little bit at a time, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. You don't have to add the entire mixture. I add about 2/3 of it and then I stop.
6) Serve topped with scallions.