Let’s make the meat mixture. Add the vegetable oil to a pan and turn on the burner. Place the ground pork into the heated pan and cook it thoroughly. Stir-fry until the pork completely turns white and the juices run clear.
Add the chopped garlic and ginger root. Stir-fry until it starts to grow more fragrant.
Add the tian mian jiang, sweet bean sauce and the soy sauce. Distribute the sauce evenly and continue to stir to avoid burning.
Add the sake. Reduce the liquid and then place the meat mixture onto a plate.
Let’s make the soup base. In a bowl, combine the white sesame paste, soy sauce and vinegar. As shown, press the mixture with a spatula a little at a time to mix thoroughly. This will help to avoid separation.
When the soup base is completely combined, add the chopped long green onion and the hot chili oil.
Add the sesame oil to a pot of boiling water. Cut the bottom of the bok choy, detaching the outer leaves. Then, cut the leaves into 3 pieces.
Place the firm stalks into the pot. Next, add the leafy part. Remove and place onto a plate.
Combine the Chinese-style chicken stock and the soy milk in a pot. Heat the pot on the lowest possible heat and lightly stir the stock.
Let’s make the Tantanmen. Place the fresh ramen noodles into the same pot of boiling water. Lightly loosen up the noodles with chopsticks.
Pour the heated chicken stock into the bowl, gently combining the soup base.
The noodles should be slightly firm so avoid overcooking. Using a mesh strainer, remove the excess water thoroughly. Then, place the noodles into the bowl.
Place the bok choy onto the noodles. Add the meat mixture next to the vegetables. Finally, drizzle on the hot chili oil to taste.
The sesame oil gives the bok choy a glossy texture, making the vegetables visually appealing.
You can adjust the amount of the hot chili sauce so that people who don't like spicy foods can also enjoy the Tantanmen.
For a substitute vegetable, spinach or komatsuna goes great with this recipe.
Let's drain the firm tofu. Remove the tofu from the package. Wrap the tofu with a thick paper towel. Use a dish as a weight and let the tofu sit for 20 minutes. If the room temperature is high, let the tofu sit in a fridge.
Let's cut the vegetables. Remove the root end of the garlic clove. Crush the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife. Remove the skin and chop the garlic into fine pieces.
Slice the ginger thinly. Stack the slices on top of each other and cut them into fine strips. Turn the strips and chop across the ginger.
Remove the root ends of the garlic chives. Cut the chives in half and chop them into half inch pieces.
Here is the Chinese-style chicken stock powder. Pour hot water in the heatproof measuring cup. Stir and dissolve the chicken stock well.
Dissolve the potato starch in twice its volume of water.
After 20 minutes of draining, gently remove the paper towel from the tofu. Be careful not to break it. First, slice the tofu horizontally and divide into 2 blocks. Next, cut vertically across the tofu. Finally, dice up the tofu into 3/4 inch cubes.
Let's make Mapo Tofu. Heat up the pan and pour in the sesame oil. Swirl the pan to coat it with oil. Stir-fry the ground pork at hight heat while breaking it into small pieces.
When the pork is thoroughly cooked and the color of pork fat becomes clear, add chopped garlic and ginger and reduce the heat to medium. Stir-fry until aromatic.
Move the pork to one side and make an extra space on the pan. Put the doubanjiang and tian mian jiang directly on the heated surface and fry at low heat to increase the flavor. Stir constantly to avoid burning.
Mix the condiments and pork together and stir-fry until evenly browned. Add the sake and stir until the moisture is gone.
Add the chicken stock, soy sauce and sake to the mixture and stir lightly.
Put in the tofu cubes and gently spread them in the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil at high heat. When it boils, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for two to three minutes. The tofu's moisture gets reduced and it will absorb the flavor of the sauce. This process will reduce the tofu's moisture and let the tofu absorb the flavour of the sauce.
Add in the garlic chives and gently stir with the wooden spatula. Mix and dissolve the potato starch evenly before adding it to the Mapo Tofu. Lift the pan from the burner and pour in the potato starch while swirling the pan.
Gently mix the content by sliding the spatula away from you, otherwise the tofu easily breaks into pieces. Heat over high heat for around 30 seconds and it's ready to serve.
Turn off the burner and serve the Mapo Tofu in the bowl. Sprinkle on Sichuan pepper if you like the unique aroma and flavor.
After adding the potato starch, heat the Mapo Tofu well until thickened, otherwise it will get runny when served.
You can also serve the Mapo Tofu on a rice bowl, making it Mapo Tofu donburi.
Doubanjiang, Tian Mian Jiang and Sichuan Pepper are found in the Chinese food section of most major grocery stores.