Ma Po Tofu
Ma Po Tofu is one of my favorite Sichuan dishes, and nobody makes it better than a local restaurant chain called Sichuan Gourmet. We’ve been going to a couple of their locations for many years, and I would put it up against the best Chinese restaurants you care to name anywhere in the U.S. I don’t think we’ve ever been to one or the other when the place wasn’t packed to the gills, mainly with Chinese ex-pats who live in the area, enjoying authentic versions of Sichuan cuisine.
Ma Po Tofu is essentially soft tofu cubes and minced meat (beef or pork) in a searingly hot sauce of doubanjiang and douchi, with Sichuan peppercorns. It’s actually not complicated to make at all, provided that you have the right ingredients. I bought the ingredients at C-Mart in Boston Chinatown, but have seen them at H-Mart as well, and they’re not hard to find online. I used the recipe from SoupedupRecipes.com (one of my favorite YouTube cooking channels). Her recipe was too hot for me, so I dialed it down a bit when I made it at home, and it was still too hot for my wife. Similarly, Sichuan Gourmet does not hold back on the spice unless you ask. I’ve wised up and just bring a towel when we go, to wipe the sweat off my face while enjoying this excellent dish.