“This is simple to make – just have all your ingredients ready to go. And, if you have time, make the ma po sauce in advance: you will only need a small amount for this dish, but once you’ve made a batch, it will keep in the fridge for 3–6 months. ”
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By Gilbert Lau
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To make the marinade, place the ingredients in a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of water and a pinch of sea salt and white pepper. Mix to combine.
Immerse the pork in the marinade, and set aside.
Soak the shiitake mushrooms in a hot water for 30 minutes.
To make the ma po sauce, soak the dried chillies in water to soften. Place the black beans in another bowl of water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your ma po bean curd. Cut the curd into 2.5cm cubes and place in a bowl of hot water for 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Return to the ma po sauce. Deseed, roughly chop and blend the red pepper in a food processor with a splash of water until it forms a purée.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok over a medium–high heat and deep-fry the peppercorns for 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant.
Drain the oil, grind the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then transfer to a bowl.
Peel the garlic, then peel and dice the onion. Drain the softened chillies, then dice along with the fresh chillies.
Using the pestle and mortar again, grind the garlic, shallot, onion and chillies until combined.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in the wok until just smoking. Add the ground shallot mixture and stir-fry over a low heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Drain and stir in the soaked black beans, the ground bean paste and remaining oil, one spoonful at a time, and stir-fry until everything is combined.
Add the oyster sauce, sugar, ½ tablespoon of salt and the puréed pepper, and stir-fry for another 5 minutes.
Lastly, stir in the ground peppercorns. You won’t need all of this sauce – store what you don’t use in a sterilised jar.
To prepare the pork, peel and very finely chop the garlic, then peel and finely grate the ginger. Drain the shiitake mushrooms, remove the stalks and roughly chop. Rinse and finely chop the preserved veg.
Heat the oil in the wok and stir-fry the pork over a high heat for 4 minutes, or until about 80 per cent cooked.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, ginger, mushroom, preserved veg, shaoxing wine, stock and 2 to 3 tablespoons of your ma po sauce. Cook, stirring, for 20 seconds.
Add ¼ teaspoon of salt and all the bean curd ingredients apart from the cornflour, and simmer for 1–1½ minutes, until the curd has absorbed all the flavours.
Combine the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water to make a paste, then stir it into the pan until the sauce is slightly thickened.
Transfer to a serving dish, finely slice and sprinkle over the spring onion, then serve with steamed rice.
Sichuan preserved vegetables can be found at souschef.co.uk.