Not a pock-marked lady in sight

my happy daughter in a chinese restaurant

So shiney! So sparkly! So top-aussie!

Back in my double-income-no-kids incarnation I lived in a much less salubrious, multicultural part of town. Drunks, 24-hour pubs, lots of dirty surfaces and every outing included some interesting encounter with someone a bit out of the ordinary. It was also a major Shanghai-nese centre, with rows of restaurants with menus only in Mandarin and old men sitting at back tables rolling pork and coriander dumplings…. hmmmm. I salivate at the memory. My first meal in one of these restaurants was a revelation with juicy dumplings and fish in oyster sauce. Then ma-po dofu – a gorgeous combination of minced pork and tofu. Apparently the name translates as ‘pockmarked-face lady’s tofu’. Delicious! The whole meal cost us less than $15.

Since then, of course, a couple of glorious kids have entered our lives and we’ve outgrown the dodgy surrounds and moved to a suburb that’s much shinier. Feeling nostalgic, we packed up the kids and headed off to our local Chinese restaurant. Large clean fishtanks in place of the paper menus sticky-taped to the walls. Fancy mirrored ceilings instead of grime. And the food? Well… it’s about 5 times the price and falls strictly into the Australian/Chinese category. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, actually its good, but very top Aussie – sweet and sour as far as the eye can see. Looking at the patrons I realised the only Asian faces were those of the waistcoat-wearing waiters. All the local Asian residents bother to drive the 3 suburbs to where the pockmarked-face lady still reigns.

Here’s my version, tailored for the kids.  It’s a handy recipe too – all the ingredients can be prepared early in the day, stored in the fridge and thrown together quickly that night.

Ma po dofu dish

This kid-friendly ma po dofu smuggles tofu, carrots, corn and capsicum

Ma po dofu

500g pork mince
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or regular soy sauce if you prefer)
2 tbsp shaoxing wine
(Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry or mirin
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large carrot, peeled, grated
1 zucchini, grated
125g can corn kernels, drained
1/3 red capsicum, deseeded, finely diced
200g packet flavoured tofu (honey/soy), diced (or use plain tofu if you prefer)
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce

Marinate the mince in the dark soy and 1 tbsp rice wine for 1 hour (if you have time) in the fridge in a ceramic dish.

Heat the canola oil in a wok or large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook mince until browned, breaking up lumps as you go. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reheat the pan on high heat, cook all the vegies, tofu, ginger and garlic for 1-2 minutes. Ensure heat stays high to avoid vegetables going soggy.

Return the mince to the pan, along with the stock, soy sauce and the rest of the rice wine. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Serve with rice of your choice and coriander.

SERVES 2 ADULTS & 4 KIDS

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Adam said,

    Mmmmm… one of my absolute favourites! 🙂

  2. 2

    I did this for dinner tonight, complete success. After Mr4 being very sceptical and saying he didn’t like it and wouldn’t eat it, he was cajoled into trying two forkfuls and ended up pretty much clearing his bowl. Miss2 ate all of hers and then finished off Mr4’s. Yay! We will be doing this again for sure.

  3. 4

    Kristen said,

    yep, loved in our house by all.

  4. 5

    […] Ma po dofu was next up, swapping the port mince for some chicken.  The kids and Mr Good gobbled this one up, but I’d have to say I still not that keen on tofu….  I added sweet chilli sauce and coriander leaves to the adults servings, but Miss Three picked the leaves off Mr Good’s and ate them herself and insisted on some sauce too.  She’s definitely going to be my curry/spicy food girl. […]


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