A couple weeks ago, my friend A. took us to a family friend's restaurant in Chinatown. We've been living a few blocks from it for years, but never found ourselves inside. Perhaps it was the weather beaten exterior, or lack of signage displaying the restaurant's name. Most likely it's because we don't know any Chinese and were totally intimidated. It's called Gourmet Food, and as we found out it's the neighborhood's best kept secret. The food we had was cheap, filling, like nothing you'd get in a typical Chinese-American restaurant...and it was GOOD.
I have not tried to recreate the dish I ate there (after all, it's within walking distance and the frugal foodie's best friend—why bother?) but it did get me thinking about giving Chinese food another shot in my kitchen.
I loosely followed a recipe for Ma-Po Tofu, but seeing as there were so many substitutes it really became something else entirely. It may not be pretty, but was certainly satisfying!
1 block tofu
1/2 lb ground pork
3 T Chinese black bean sauce (with garlic)
1 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine
1 tsp grated ginger
2 T finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 tsp raw sugar (or brown)
1/4 c stock (veggie or chicken will do)
salt & pepper
1 T cornstarch dissolved in 2 T hot water
Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a work, add ginger and onion. Cook for 30 seconds.
To this, add ground pork, black bean sauce, garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar. Cook 1-2 minutes.
Add tofu and stock, simmer 15 minutes on low heat. After this time, add the dissolved cornstarch and heat a minute or two. It will thicken. Season with salt & pepper and serve with white rice.