An expert’s video guide to cooking amazing ma po tofu

Fuchsia Dunlop, an English chef famous for being invited into an elite culinary school in China's Sichuan province, demonstrates above how to cook what also happens to be my favorite Chinese dish: ma po tofu. Sichuan is particularly renowned for its food even by China's high standards; the United Nations' cultural body last year declared Sichuan's capital Chengdu a world "city of gastronomy" for its food culture. Ma po tofu represents the spice and flavors of Sichuan. This video, produced by The Wall Street Journal, is via Shanghaiist

Dunlop has a new book, "Simple Chinese Home Cooking," coming out in February, but is best known for her 2003 Sichuanese cookbook. In a recent interview with CNN, Dunlop explained the "vocabulary of Sichuanese cuisine":

Chinese cuisine and Sichuanese cuisine are highly sophisticated. In French cooking, you have different words for different processes and different kinds of sauces. And Chinese cuisine is like that. For example, there are words for different kinds of frying that don't have English equivalents.

For example, liu is taking your ingredient, which usually has some starch paste on it, and pre-cooking it in oil or water. Then you make a sauce and mix the two together.

There's zha, which is to deep-fry.

Jian is what Westerners would call pan-frying in a flat pan, or frying without moving the ingredients around very much because you can also do it in a wok.

Chao means stir-frying. Chaoxiang is to fry fragrant, which is bringing out the fragrance of oil, ginger, or garlic.

Bian is another word similar to stir-fry. Ganbian, meaning dry bian, is frying without any oil and later adding oil and seasonings.

Qiang is frying Sichuan pepper and chili and then adding an ingredient to drive in the spice.

Those are the immediate ones.

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Olga Khazan · October 25, 2012