The origin of this famous dish is traced to the Qing dynasty, during the reign of the Emperor Tong Zhi (1864-74). A charming story describes how a peasant woman in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan (Szechwan) province, once provided food and hospitality to the weary emperor. Among the dishes this woman devised and served to her noble guest was a humble dish of bean curd and ground (minced) meat. The woman's culinary skill was so highly praised that royal edict pronounced the dish fit for a king and was thereafter to be named in honor of the creator.
In Chinese custom, the woman was mature enough to be simply called "grandmother" and as she was unfortunate enough still to bear the scars of the scourge of smallpox, the dish was rather unkindly called pockmarked grandmother's bean curd. Her fame spread far and wide, and today on the Wanfu Bridge in Chengdu one can still sample the same culinary joys as the Emperor Tong zhi at the original house of "Ma Po."
- 2 cups peanut oil, for deep-frying
- 6 ounces ground pork
- 1 tablespoon Chinese chili paste (available at Chinese stores)
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon mushroom soy sauce (available at Chinese stores)
- 8 cakes fresh bean curd (available at Chinese stores), roughly diced
- For Sauce:
- 1/2 cup Family Chicken Broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine (available at Chinese stores) or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns (fagara, available at Chinese stores), toasted and crushed (see Note below)
Companion recipe: Family Chicken Broth
Pour the peanut oil into a wok and heat until it begins to smoke. Deep-fry the ground pork until it is cooked through and no longer pink. Strain off the excess oil.
Combine the chili paste and chicken broth. Add the mushroom soy sauce and chili paste mixture to the wok and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Add the bean curd and cook for 3 minutes. Add all of the sauce ingredients, and stir in the scallions.
Place on a serving plate and sprinkle with the Sichuan pepper.
NOTE: Roast the Sichuan peppercorns over low heat in a dry wok, gently stirring until they become "fragrant" (3-4 minutes). Remove and crush them to a "pepper mill" texture (use a coffee or spice grinder), then store them in a screw-top jar.
Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Russell. All rights reserved.
nutrition information per serving
382 calories; 28g total fat; 19mg cholesterol; 529mg sodium; 24g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 9g protein
These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.
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