I have so many it would be singularly impossible to choose.
You know when people talk of the desert Island meal....I just can't ever answer.
It feels like when someone asks me if I have a favourite child?
I answer...."Yep, I have a favourite 13, 11, 8, 5 and 2yo".
I love them all.
They are each unique.
They are all wonderful.
Their differences excite me & interest me.
I don't need to have a favourite. They're all my favourites.
It is the same when i have to choose a favourite dish.
We are so lucky in Australia.
Picking a favourite cuisine on offer to us here is impossible for me.
Australia is a country made up of a mix of about 90 or so nationalities.
The amazing exposure to cuisine this gives us is truly magnificent.
We are able to buy so many ingredients now that were not available to us before.
We live in a country that has so many different climates and as a result gives us access to so many different fruits and vegetables.
I love the stories behind different dishes. I love to find out where they came from, how they evolved.
I love the window into culture that food gives us.
I love to collect cookbooks and read about the stories behind food.
I wrote about that a while back. (Click here to take you back to that post).
I read them in bed like other people read novels.
Anyway.......last night I had a real hankering for what I am going to say is ONE of my favourite dishes- Ma Po Dou Fu. It is literally translated as Pock marked woman's bean curd. Yeah...ok...not so flattering but boy oh boy the dish is a total winner! This particular lady was a restaurateur in Chengdu and was famous for her amazing bean curd.
It is from the Sichuan province of China. The food from this region is famed for it's distinctive 'hot and numbing' spice- Sichuan peppercorn. It is an amazingly aromatic spice and like curry spices it's complexity is brought out by roasting it a little before grinding it and using it. It is readily available in good Asian grocers. It leaves an amazing zingy numb sensation on your tongue. I LOVE IT. And the Sichuanese are not shy on Chili either- another love of mine.
I changed the recipe slightly (I'm really bad at keeping true to recipes...I just can't help but tinker!) as I had some eggplants that I needed to use and I have added them to this before with great success. So I will share my altered version here. Feel free to be a purist and omit them!
Thankfully Chinese cuisine has come a long way in this country since the days of Honey Prawns & Sweet and Sour pork.
For me trying this recipe is a bit like a test of a Chinese restaurant...a bit like the never ending search for the best Laksa in Malaysian places.
GOURMET GIRLFRIEND'S MA PO DOU FU:
This is a dish that is best cooked in a smoking hot wok. You could do it in a non-stick fry pan but don't be shy with the heat! Like all stir fry cooking it pays to be organised before you heat up your wok.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
- 200g pork mince
- 1 block firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 3-4 spring onions, chopped diagonally
- 1 bunch coriander, washed and chopped finely (use roots too- this is where all the flavour is!)
- 2 tsblpns Shao Xing wine
- 1 tblspn dark soy sauce
- 1 tspn sesame oil
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 2 inch piece of ginger, chopped finely or grated
- 1 heaped tblspn chili bean sauce (buy this from the asian grocer) (use a little less if not a big chili fan- this sauce is quite hot!)
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 1 tbslpn corn flour (add to stock)
- 2 tspns Ground sichuan pepper.
- 3 tblspns Canola oil
- 1 eggplant (optional)
Dry roast the Sichuan pepper until fragrant and grind in a mortar & pestle.
If you are using eggplant you can chargrill them while the pork marinates.
I cut my eggplant lengthways and then into chunks like this. I like it to be an rather large chunks and this also allows more surface to gain flavour from chargrilling.
Add the Sichuan pepper & the Chilli bean sauce.
Stir continually until the pork is cooked through.
Now add the stock (the cornflour is added to this to thicken the sauce).
Add tofu, spring onions and coriander and stir through gently for about a minute or until tofu is warmed through.
Serve with steamed Jasmine Rice. I have to add some Chow Chiu chilli oil.....and a sprinkle of more coriander & spring onion.
I hope you try it and it becomes one of your favourites too!
We have been loving this lately- it's an old favourite....the melifluous voice of Robert Fisher is so beautiful. My 11yo is going to give it a go on his guitar. Might be a while before he matches the gorgeous deep vocals though!