Pock-marked mother chens bean curd

Discover the distinctive flavours of Sichuanese cuisine with Fuchsia Dunlop's deliciously authentic recipe for a classic Chinese bean curd dish
By Fuchsia Dunlop
Pock-marked mother chens bean curd
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 2-3 as part of a Chinese meal
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Effort: easy



  • 1 block of fresh tofu
  • salt
  • 4baby leeks, or spring onions
  • 100 ml groundnut oil, plus 30ml if using a classic (ie not non-stick) Chinese wok
  • 150 g minced beef
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sichuanese chilli bean paste
  • 1 tbsp chinese fermented black beans
  • 250 ml unsalted fresh chicken stock, or water
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp potato flour, mixed with 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 tsp ground roasted sichuan peppercorns


1. Cut the bean curd into 2cm cubes and leave to steep in very hot or gently simmering water which you have lightly salted.

2. Slice the leeks or spring onions at a steep angle into thin 'horse-ear' slices.

3. If using a classic (ie not non-stick) Chinese wok, season the wok by heating it over a high flame until smoking. Add in 30ml of groundnut oil and swirl around over the wok. Once the oil is smoking, pour it off into a heatproof container.

4. Add in the remaining groundnut oil and heat over a high flame until smoking.

5. Add the minced beef and stir-fry until it is crispy and a little brown, but not yet dry.

6. Turn the heat down to medium, add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the oil is a rich red colour.

7. Add the black fermented beans and stir-fry for another 20-30 seconds until fragrant.

8. Pour in the stock, stir well and add the drained bean curd. Mix it in gently - do not stir or the bean curd may break up.

9. Season with the sugar, soy sauce and salt to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the bean curd has absorbed the flavours of the sauce.

10. Add the leeks and gently stir in.

11. When the leeks are just cooked, add the potato flour mixture in two or three stages, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to cling glossily to the meat and bean curd.

12. Finally, pour the bean curd mixture into a deep serving bowl, scatter with the ground Sichuan pepper and serve.

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