The raw intensity of this spicy marijuana-infused plate is 90 percent of the fun. But if you’re new to Szechuan cuisine, consider cutting back on the peppercorns.
More than once, I’ve had to excuse myself from the table while eating Szechuan specialties to get some air outside. The extreme endorphin spike of wolfing an oval plate heaped high with spicy, tingly, stimulating morsels is sometimes too much to bear, in a good way.
The feeling of Szechuan peppercorns, which aren’t technically a pepper, creates lightning on your tongue, and the feeling is addictive.
Though Szechuan pepper is used in many delicious dishes, Ma Po Tofu may be the most satisfying. It’s easy to adapt to any diner, from meat eaters to vegans, and with a few tweaks, you can even make it gluten-free.
The raw intensity of this plate is 90 percent of the fun, but if you’re new to cooking with this type of spice, you can start with half the amount. It’s easy to add some extra tingle at the end with some infused oil.
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Ma Po Tofu
Serves 4; 14mg of THC per serving estimated
1 package silken tofu
1 cup ground beef or veggie beef crumbles (leave out for gluten-free)
2 tablespoons cannabis-infused veggie fat
½ tablespoon broad bean paste
1 tablespoon garlic black bean paste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns
2 chili peppers fresh or dried
½ tablespoon hot sesame oil
2 scallions, sliced fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
1” ginger, minced
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
White rice on the side
Cilantro for garnish
Cut tofu into small cubes and blanch for one minute in salted water; use a colander to avoid breaking up the cubes. Handle tofu chunks gently — a rice paddle is great for scooping. Stir water and cornstarch together and put aside.
Toast peppercorns, chili peppers and pepper flakes in a dry pan until fragrant. Grind in a mortar and pestle until powdered. Heat hot sesame oil in the pan and add garlic, ginger and half of the scallions. Add the beef and cook until browned. Stir in pastes, half of the spice mixture and veggie fat, and bring to a simmer for five minutes.
Slip in the tofu cubes and stir well to incorporate. Simmer mixture for another five minutes, stir in cornstarch mixture and simmer another one to two minutes until thickened. Serve spooned over white rice, garnish with remaining spice powder, scallions and lightly chopped cilantro.
With this type of spicy food, adventure is key. What may initially feel like an assault on your taste buds becomes a symphony after a few bites.
This recipe is courtesy of The Fresh Toast, a lifestyle/entertainment site with a side of cannabis. The Seattle Times is running occasional light lifestyle items from this site. For related recipes, news, features and pop culture, visit The Fresh Toast.