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How To Make Tim Anderson’s Mapo Ramen – Sichuan Spiced Tofu Noodles

A hearty bowl of tastiness

Posted on

10 March 2019

A hearty bowl of tastiness.

All Credits: PA

“So much of Japanese culture has direct, traceable roots in China: Everything from religion and orthography, to tea bowls and noodles. And despite the political issues between the two countries, there’s still a lot of positive cultural exchange between them. One of the more interesting examples of this is ramen, a dish that in Japan many still consider Chinese, but that can now be found all over China, sold as a distinctly Japanese dish,” explains 2011 MasterChef champ and restaurateur, Tim Anderson.

“Even more complex is the recent trend of ‘mapo ramen’ in Tokyo: A combination of a traditional Chinese dish (mapo tofu) with a Japanese version of a Chinese dish (ramen), the result of which is very Chinese in terms of flavour, but that wouldn’t be found in China. It’s a kind of culinary orphan, neither Japanese nor Chinese but also kind of both. But then again, who cares? It’s really delicious and that’s all that matters.”

Ingredients:

(Serves 4)

600g–700g firm or extra firm silken tofu
Water
Big pinch of salt
2tbsp Sichuan pepper
4 dried red Chinese chillies
4tbsp vegetable oil
2 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 bird’s eye chilli (or more, to taste), finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
15g piece of ginger root, peeled and finely shredded
300g minced pork
1tbsp preserved black beans
80g doubanjiang (black bean sauce)
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
500ml chicken stock
1tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2tbsp cornflour, mixed to a paste with a little water
Worcestershire sauce and/or soy sauce, to taste
4 portions thick ramen noodles

For The Garnish:

Small handful of coriander, roughly torn
Sesame seeds, toasted until deep golden brown
Plenty of sansho pepper

Mapo Ramen

Method:

1. Cut the tofu into 2.5-cm (1-in) cubes and bring a pan of water to a low simmer along with the salt. Carefully add the tofu to the salted water and poach for 10 minutes.

2. Remove gently with a slotted spoon. Toast the Sichuan pepper and dried chillies in a dry frying pan until aromatic and beginning to colour, then leave to cool and grind to a coarse powder.

3. Add the oil to the pan and place over a high heat, then add the anchovies, if using, and the bird’s eye chilli. Fry for a minute or two, then add the garlic, ginger and pork and fry until the pork is browned. Add the black beans, doubanjiang, sugar and the ground Sichuan pepper and chillies. Cook for a few minutes, stirring often, so the flavours meld.

4. Add the chicken stock and sesame oil and bring to the boil, then stir in some (not all) of the cornflour-water mixture. Let the sauce boil for a few minutes to thicken, stirring continuously; add more cornflour slurry if you want it thicker (it should be quite thick so it clings well to the noodles). Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning with Worcestershire and/or soy sauces. Gently stir in the tofu, using a pushing motion with the back of your spatula and shaking the pan to coat the tofu without breaking it up.

5. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and cook the noodles until al dente. Drain well, then transfer to four bowls. Top with the hot tofu mixture and garnish with the coriander, sesame seeds and sansho.

Tokyo Stories: A Japanese Cookbook by Tim Anderson, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Hardie Grant. Available now.