Serves 4 to 5 as part of a multi-course meal, or 2 to 3 as the main entree
1 block soft or medium-firm tofu (about 1 pound), drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 pound ground pork or beef
2 leeks, green parts discarded and thinly sliced at an angle
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon fermented black beans (or subsitute black bean sauce)
2 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or sherry
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon thinly sliced scallions
1. Heat a large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the sides. Add the pork and stir-fry until crispy and starting to brown but not yet dry, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, then add leeks, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add the salted black beans and mash them with the back of a wooden spoon, breaking them up so they blend in well with the meat. Add the chili bean paste and ground Sichuan pepper and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until the oil is a rich red color.
3. Pour in the stock and stir well. Mix in the drained tofu gently by pushing the back of your ladle or wok scoop gently from the edges to the center of the wok or pan; don’t stir or the tofu may break up. And the rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, allowing the tofu has absorb the flavors of the sauce.
4. Add the cornstarch mixture, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. Transfer to a deep plate or wide bowl, garnish with optional scallions, and serve hot.