This spicy, aromatic Sichuan dish is recognizable from the citrus aroma of Sichuan peppercorns and the spicy fermented flavour of hot bean sauce. According to legend, Mapo Tofu (Pock-Marked Grandma’s Tofu) was named after an old Chinese woman who served the dish to her restaurant guests. She became known for it and people began referring to the dish as the pock-marked woman’s tofu.
Special equipment: Szechuan peppercorns, salted fermented black beans and hot bean paste can be found online and in most Asian markets.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat and toast the Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer the peppercorns to a bowl to cool. Coarsely grind the peppercorns in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle and set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together the chicken broth, hot bean paste, cornstarch, hot sesame oil, soy sauce and sugar; set aside.
Heat the wok over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil, garlic, ginger and fermented black beans and cook until fragrant, stirring often, about 10 seconds. Add the ground pork and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with a wooden spatula or spoon, until it is browned, 3 to 5 minutes. (Lower the heat to medium if the garlic starts to burn.) Add the reserved ground peppercorns, the tofu and the soy sauce mixture. Cook, stirring once to combine, until the sauce is reduced, thickened and glossy, about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and garnish with the scallions. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.