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Tofu and spicy pork sauce with crispy fried rice

October 3, 2007
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Serves 4

"Everyone loves this recipe, which they know from Chinese restaurants as ma po tofu," writes Masaharu Morimoto in "Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking." "It's a versatile dish, which here is served over crispy rice. You could also serve it over noodles. For a change, I sometimes like to fry cooked rice until it's crispy and sprinkle it on top instead."

RICE

2cups steamed white rice
Vegetable oil (for deep-frying)

1. Set the oven at 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Spread the steamed rice on the sheet. Bake for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and let the rice continue to dry in the oven for at least 8 hours or overnight. Set the dried rice aside at room temperature for up to 12 hours until ready to fry.

2. To fry the rice: Heat about 2 inches of oil in a large saucepan. In batches, carefully add a handful of rice to the oil and fry for 2 minutes or until golden. Using a fine wire-mesh skimmer or a heat-proof (no plastic) wire sieve, scoop out the rice and drain on paper towels.

PORK AND TOFU

1large or 2 medium dried shiitake mushrooms
1tablespoon vegetable oil
1clove garlic, finely chopped
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1scallion (white part only), finely chopped
1tablespoon finely chopped bamboo shoot
1tablespoon finely chopped celery
12ounces ground pork
1cup chicken stock
1tablespoon red miso
1tablespoon tobanjan (Chinese hot chili sauce)
1tablespoon sugar
1tablespoon soy sauce
2teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water (stir well just before using)
1pound firm tofu, diced
Sesame oil (for sprinkling)
1extra scallion, sliced (for garnish)

1. In a bowl, combine the shiitakes and hot water to cover. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes or until soft. Drain and squeeze the shiitakes to remove as much liquid as possible. Remove the stem and finely chop the caps.

2. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, white part of the scallion, bamboo shoot, celery, and shiitakes. Cook, stirring often, for 2 to 3 minutes or until the garlic is tender.

3. Add the pork, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook, breaking up any lumps of meat with the side of a spoon, for 7 minutes or until it is cooked through with no trace of pink.

4. Add the stock, red miso, tobanjan, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds or until thickened. (The pork sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead, cooled, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat gently in a skillet.)

5. Just before serving, add the tofu to the hot pork mixture. Stir gently to combine them. Cook for 3 minutes or until the tofu is heated through. Serve in bowls over crispy rice. Sprinkle with sesame oil and sliced scallion. Adapted from "Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking"

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