Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
for the bean curd:
1 block (14 ounces or so) soft bean curd, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons sea salt
for the meat and sauce:
4 ounces ground beef
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons Sichuan hot bean sauce
1 teaspoon finely ground chilies
1 cup unsalted stock of any kind
1 leek, cleaned and thinly sliced on the diagonal
about 2 teaspoons sweet soy sauce or 2 teaspoons regular soy sauce + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon toasted soybean flour or cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon toasted Sichuan peppercorns
1 green onion, green part only, thinly sliced
1. Place the bean curd in a small saucepan, cover with the boiling water, and add the salt. Bring the water to a boil again and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook the bean curd for about 10 minutes to heat it and prevent it from falling apart. Gently transfer the bean curd to a colander set in the sink and drain thoroughly.
2. Place the ground beef on a cutting board and use a heavy knife to chop it until it is light and fluffy. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil. When the oil shimmers, swirl it around and then toss in the beef and the ginger. Stir constantly as the beef cooks so that it does not stick to the wok. As it starts to brown nicely, season it with salt and then scoop the meat up the side of the wok.
3. Add the black beans, bean sauce, and chilies to the hot oil at the bottom of the wok and fry them together for a few seconds to release their fragrance. Toss the beef with the bean sauce in the wok and pour in the stock. Add the bean curd, leek, and sweet soy sauce (or soy sauce and sugar) to taste. Bring the bean curd and sauce to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat under the wok to medium. Thicken the sauce by adding soybean or cornstarch slurry in three parts: the first time, the sauce will absorb the slurry, but the bean curd will continuer to release water, so add the slurry a second time. After each addition, do not stir the ingredients. Instead, shake the wok gently yet firmly over medium heat, as this will mix in the thickener without breaking up the bean curd. Add the slurry a third time to stabilize the texture.
5. Remove from heat, sprinkle on the ground peppercorns and green onion, and then transfer to a rimmed dish or bowl. Serve hot.
Author's Note: Reprinted with permission from All Under Heaven: Recipes from the 35 Cuisines of China by Carolyn Phillips, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.