mapo tofu2016.10.20 2017.10.09
Mapo Tofu is my favorite dish.
That's a pretty big statement but it's one I'm comfortable making. I've tried every mapo I've ever come across: I've had mind-blowingly spicy mapo (R.I.P., Lucky Strike PDX), chunky oily mapo, awful mapo, confusing mapo (with portabello mushrooms and more than a little tomato flavor), and my own kitchen experiments which have ranged from bland to delicious.
Until it's topped, the best mapo I've ever had was at the Honolulu Chengdu Taste. Almost equal in measure is Szechuan Chef's in Portland, OR. Other favorite places are Spices in San Francisco, La Vie en Sichuan in NYC, and Dew Drop Inn in Honolulu. I also adore the mapo at Mission Chinese Food
I found the Mission Chinese cookbook at the SE Powells recently and made its mapo recipe tonight. It's already vegan by default so I made the recipe as faithfully as I could (including measuring, which I rarely do). Naturally, I used Rainier for the required cheap beer and was lucky enough to use fancy doubanjiang that a friend gave me before moving away.
The recipe is involved but effective. I've run into trouble with using too-salty chili crisp oil and am working on getting that under control; i think also the soy sauce i'm using with the mushrooms is adding too much salt. but the flavors are great besides that.
Last time I made it, I toasted a bunch of szechuan peppercorn and put it in an old black pepper grinder, so now I can dust whatever I want with szechuan peppercorn. It's been great adding it to instant soups (omg I'm obsessed with the mapo style instant soup by Low Kow Crystal Noodle) and delivered Chinese food.