This is a classic Sichuan dish. Ground beef or dried shrimp may be subtituted for the pork in this dish, however the the dominant ingredients is tofu laced with pungent Sichuan seasonings. A vegetarian version can be made where the meat is omited altogether, and substituted with fresh shiitake or dried black Chinese mushrooms.
- 2 tablespoons salted black beans
- 1 lb (500 g) firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 6 oz (180 g) ground pork
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 4 tablespoons minced spicy Sichuan pickles (zha cai--optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons hot chili paste
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) Basic Chicken Stock*
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch, blended with 2 teaspoons water
- 1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
Cover the black beans with water and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Drain, then mash slightly with a fork, set aside.
Drain the tofu, place it between 2 plates, and top with a weight for 10 minutes. Drain any addtional liquid, then dice the tofu and set it aside.
Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat and stir-fry the black beans and pork until the meat is completely browned, about 3 minutes. Add the ginger, Sichuan pickles (if using), garlic, chili paste, and half of the green onions. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes, then add the Chicken Stock and tofu. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, then pour in the cornstarch mixture and stir until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle with Sichuan pepper and green onion.
For a vegetarian version, substitute 6 fresh shiitake or 8 dried black Chinese mushrooms, if using fresh mushrooms, discard the stems and dice the caps. If using dried black Chinese mushrooms, soak them in warm water for 15 minutes to soften, then drain, discard the stems, and dice the caps. Add the mushrooms in a place of the meat.