Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings
- 1 - 1/4 pound plain white tofu
- Dash salt
- 4 baby leeks or spring onions, green parts only
- 4 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chilli bean paste
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 teaspoons ground red chilllies (optional)
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup vegetarian stock or water
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 2 teaspoons potato flour mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan pepper
- Cut the tofu into 3/4 inch cubes and leave to steep in very hot, lightly salted water while you prepare the other ingredients (do not allow the water to boil or the tofu will become porous and less tender). Slice the baby leeks or spring onions at a steep angle.
- Heat a wok over a high flame. Pour in the cooking oil and swirl it around. Reduce the heat to medium, add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry until the oil is a rich red color and smells delicious. Next add the black beans and ground chillies (if using) and stir-fry for a few seconds more until you can smell them too. Then do the same with the ginger and garlic. Take care not to overheat the seasonings; you want a thick, fragrant sauce and the secret of this is to let them sizzle gently, allowing the oil to coax out their flavors and aromas.
- Remove the tofu from the hot water with a perforated spoon, shaking off excess water, and lay it gently in the wok. Push the tofu tenderly with the back of your ladle or wok scoop to mix it into the sauce without breaking up the cubes. Add the stock or water, the white pepper and salt to taste and mix gently, again using the back of your scoop so you don't damage the tofu.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer for a few minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the flavours of the seasonings. Add the leek slices (if using) and nudge them into the sauce. When they are just tender, add a little of the flour-and-water mixture and stir gently as the liquid thickens. Repeat once or twice more, untilt he sauce clings to the seasonings and tofu (don't add more than you need). If you are using spring onions rather than leeks, add them now and nudge them gently into the sauce.
- Pour the tofu into a deep bowl. Sprinkle with the ground roasted Sichuan pepper and serve.
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