Mapo Doufu (Ma Po Tofu)

2 ounces (60 grams) ground beef
6 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
5 teaspoons Pixian chili bean paste (douban jiang)
2 teaspoons fermented black beans (dou chi)
2 teaspoons chili flakes (Sichuan or Korean)
1 cup chicken stock
1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 to 5 scallions, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 block Asian soft tofu (14 ounces or 400 grams), cut in ¾-inch dice
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon ground, roasted Sichuan pepper

Heat wok until hot. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until just begins to smoke. Add beef and stir-fry, breaking it into a small mince, until it is cooked through and starting to brown. Remove the beef and hold.

Clean the work, return it to heat until hot, then add the remaining 5 tablespoons oil. Heat briefly, then add the chili bean paste, fermented black beans and chili flakes. Let these sizzle until fragrant, being careful not to burn them. Add the chicken stock, soy sauce and scallions.

Return the minced beef to the wok. Add the tofu squares, and simmer for a couple minutes, gently tossing the tofu with the sauce. Add the cornstarch slurry a bit at a time until the dish thickens. You may not need it all.

Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with ground Sichuan pepper.

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