This is one of the most famous dishes from Sichuan. Mrs Chen of the Qing Dynasty, who apparently was scarred with pock marks on her face, was said to be the wife of a chef but it's her beancurd dish, with its lingering spicy and slightly numbing aftertaste that has earned her a solid celebrity status. Made with soft textured beancurd that is difficult to find outside Asia, the intensity of the flavours is usually enhanced by tiny leeks. It is a rich and warming dish on chilly winter evenings.
- 50 gm minced pork or beef
- ¼ cup oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
- 30 gm Sichuan preserved vegetable, rinsed, drained and finely chopped (see note)
- 1-2 tbsp chilli bean paste, or to taste
- 2 tsp salted black beans (see note)
- 2 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp chilli oil
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 500 gm soft beancurd, cut into 2cm pieces
- 2 baby leeks or green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp potato flour or cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
- ½ tsp roasted ground Sichuan pepper
- ½ tsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp Shaoxing rice wine
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp sugar
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1Combine pork and marinade in a bowl and stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok, add garlic, stirring continuously over high heat until fragrant, then add pork and stir-fry for 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add preserved vegetable, chilli bean paste, black beans, light soy, sugar and chilli oil, and stir for another 20 seconds. Add stock, then carefully add bean curd and bring to the boil, simmer for 2 minutes or until the beancurd has absorbed the flavours.
- 2Gently stir in leeks and cook for another minute or until leeks are tender, then gently stir in potato flour mixture until sauce is slightly thickened. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with roasted Sichuan pepper and serve immediately.
Note Salted black beans (dou chi) are made from fermented, salted soy beans. Also called black fermented beans or preserved beans, they are savoury with a wonderful aroma reminiscent of a good soy sauce.