Growing up, we always had a few boxes of Japanese mapo tofu mix stashed in the pantry for hectic weekday dinners. It’s like Asian Hamburger Helper: just add a bit of beef and rice, et voila! Dinner is served. Well, here’s a fancy schmancy version of the humble mapo tofu. It’s loaded with sweet lobster and Sichuan peppercorns to make your tongue tingle.
The first time I cooked with lobster, I was astonished by how easy it is! Boil for two minutes, crack the shell and pick out the meat. The shells are always saved to make broth for good, sturdy chowders. Now that it’s summer, we can pick up whole lobsters at Chinatown Market for $7 a pound!
Once the lobster is ready, this whole dish will come together in fifteen minutes. Build a good flavor base by frying the chili flakes and peppercorns for a few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients. Serve with a good pile of fluffy white rice.
LOBSTER MAPO TOFU
1 2-3 pound lobster, parboiled for two minutes, meat removed and chopped into 1″ pieces
1/4 cup of oil
1- 1 1/2 tablespoon of Sichuan peppercorns (depending on your spice tolerance)
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons of ginger, minced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
seafood broth (water or chicken broth will be fine, too)
1 package of medium-firm silken tofu
1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of water
2 large scallions, finely sliced
Heat the oil in a large wok on low. Add the pepper flakes and Sichuan peppercorns and toast until the oil begins to turn red and becomes fragrant. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for about two minutes. Add the chili bean sauce and the broth, let it simmer. Meanwhile, cut the tofu into 1 1/2″ pieces. Add the tofu and the cornstarch mixture. Let the mixture come to a low boil. Add the lobster pieces and cook for another minute. Garnish with the scallions and serve with sticky white rice.