I love Chinese food, but I have to admit that when I cook it for myself I normally stick to either black bean sauce or a packet sauce. I generally associate ‘authentic’ with ‘complicated’, so I was very pleased to come across this tofu recipe in the Guardian.
I like spicy food and it seemed simple enough so I decided to give it a go. I could get the chilli-bean paste easily enough in my local Waitrose, but not the fermented black beans. However, I decided that black bean sauce would probably be a reasonable substitute.
I have to say it worked pretty well. I didn’t end up with as much sauce as the website photo, because I forgot to add the water, but it didn’t taste dry to me. I also added half a little gem lettuce as I’m always trying to keep up my intake of green leafy stuff. I also didn’t bother with boiling the tofu before using it. It broke up a little bit, but as you’re simmering rather than stir-frying it didn’t make much of a difference to the finished product.
It’s hot, salty and easy to make. I’ll be cooking it again.
There are, however, two words of warning:
1) Chilli bean paste is freaking hot! Without being a masochist, I like my chilli. My favourite sauce on rice salads etc is the Encona Hot Chilli Sauce. But Sichuan chilli bean paste beats that. Taste before you cook with it, I ended up halving the amount used.
2) Be careful about how hot the oil is before you add the chilli paste at the beginning of the recipe. I went on automatic and let it get as hot as I would for normal stir-frying. Big mistake. When the paste hit the oil it turned into splatter city. I was wearing sandals and my feet were getting splashed with the hot oil. Keep it medium heat as per the recipe.
I don’t know about Pock-marked Old Woman’s Tofu – I think I’ll call it Hot Foot Tofu from now on!