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March 25, 2022

The Soy Boy saga begins with a recipe as unfamiliar to as this whole experience.

Recipe Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen:
Ingredients:
2 cups Water
Salt
½ oz shiitake mushrooms, dried
1 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
12 Scallions
28 oz soft tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
9 Garlic cloves, peeled
1 (3-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and cut into ¼-inch rounds
Chili Powder
Sesame Oil
1 ⅓ cup Broad Bean Chili Paste
1 Tbsp Fermented Black Beans
¼ cup Grapeseed Oil
4 oz Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms
1 Tbsp Cornstarch

Instructions:
1. Microwave water, 1/2 tsp salt, and dried mushrooms in a large covered bowl until steaming, about 1 minute. Let sit for about 5 minutes until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain mushrooms in a fine-mesh strainer, reserving liquid.
2. Set soaked mushrooms aside and return liquid to the large bowl.
3. Place peppercorns in a small bowl and microwave until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Let cool completely. Once cool, grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (you should have 1 ½ tsp).
4. Using the side of the chef's knife, lightly crush white parts of scallions, then cut scallions into 1-inch pieces. Place tofu and scallions in a bowl with the reserved mushroom liquid and microwave for 5-7 minutes until steaming. Let it rest while preparing the remaining ingredients.
5. Process garlic, ginger, chili paste, and black beans in a food processor until coarse paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add ¼ cup vegetable oil, chili powder, and 1 tsp peppercorns and continue to process until smooth paste forms, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Transfer spice paste to the bowl.
6. Place reserved soaked mushrooms and fresh shiitake mushrooms in a now-empty processor and pulse until finely chopped, 15 to 20 pulses (do not overprocess). Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and mushroom mixture in a large saucepan over medium heat, breaking up mushrooms with a wooden spoon until mushrooms begin to brown and stick to the bottom of the saucepan, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer mushroom mixture to the bowl.
7. Add remaining 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and spice paste to the now-empty saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until paste darkens and oil begins to separate from paste, 2 to 3 minutes. Gently pour tofu with mushroom liquid into the saucepan, followed by hoisin, sesame oil, and mushroom mixture. Cook, gently stirring frequently, until the dish comes to simmer, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk soy sauce and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Add cornstarch mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
8. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with remaining peppercorns and serve. (Mapo tofu can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours.)

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