Recipe of the week: Mapo ramen – Sichuan-spiced tofu noodles
Try this hearty bowl of tastiness from Tim Anderson's latest cookbook, Tokyo Stories.
Ingredients (serves 4)
600g-700g firm or extra firm silken tofu
Big pinch of salt
2 tbsp Sichuan pepper
4 dried red Chinese chillies
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 bird’s eye chilli (or more, to taste), finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
15g piece of ginger root, peeled and finely shredded
300g minced pork
1 tbsp preserved black beans
80g doubanjiang (black bean sauce)
1½ tbsp caster sugar
500ml chicken stock
1 tbsp sesame oil
1½ tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little water
Worcestershire sauce and/or soy sauce, to taste
4 portions thick ramen noodles
Small handful of coriander, roughly torn
Sesame seeds, toasted until deep golden brown
Plenty of sansho pepper
1 Cut the tofu into 2.5cm (1in) cubes and bring a pan of water to a low simmer along with the salt. Carefully add the tofu to the salted water and poach for 10 minutes.
2 Remove gently with a slotted spoon. Toast the Sichuan pepper and dried chillies in a dry frying pan until aromatic and beginning to colour, then leave to cool and grind to a coarse powder.
3 Add the oil to the pan and place over a high heat, then add the anchovies and the bird’s eye chilli. Fry for a minute or two, then add the garlic, ginger and pork and fry until the pork is browned. Add the black beans, doubanjiang, sugar, the ground Sichuan pepper and chillies. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
4 Add the chicken stock and sesame oil and bring to the boil, then stir in some (not all) of the cornflour-water mixture. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes to thicken, stirring continuously; add more cornflour slurry if you want it thicker. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with Worcestershire and/or soy sauces. Gently stir in the tofu, using a pushing motion with the back of your spatula and shaking the pan to coat the tofu without breaking it up.
5 Cook the noodles until al dente. Transfer to bowls. Top with the hot tofu mixture, coriander, sesame seeds and sansho.
Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant, priced £26. Available now.