Everyone knows about mapo tofu. It’s one of the most famous dishes to come out of the Sichuan province. My other favourite cuisine is Japanese and I’m completely obsessed with chawanmushi. It’s like the best savoury crème brûlée. When I created this dish, I wanted to make a custard, rather than just serving it with tofu. The soy milk gives it that tofu element, and I love scooping into this dish – a bit of spicy, slightly numbing pork mince on the top and then the silky savoury custard at the bottom. It’s an awesome contrast and partnership at the same time. This dish will serve two as a main meal with rice, or several people as a starter if you steam the custard in smaller, individually portioned ramekins.
Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the minced pork and work it through the marinade using clean hands. Set aside.
Firstly, find a suitable bowl or bowls that will fit inside your steamer basket when the lid is on. Next, whisk the soy milk, eggs and white soy sauce in a bowl to combine, then divide the mixture evenly between the bowls. Cover each bowl with plastic wrap, tight enough so the plastic won’t sag during cooking and touch the surface of the custard.
Put the bowls in the steamer basket with a tightfitting lid, then place over a saucepan of simmering water for 15–18 minutes, or until the custard is set but still a little soft to the touch. You can test if the custard is ready by removing the plastic and lightly touching the surface with your finger. If there’s a bit of bounce, but it feels firm, then it’s done. Set aside, and keep warm.
Heat a wok over a high heat and add a little vegetable oil. Fry the pork mince, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you stir-fry continuously. Once the pork is three-quarters cooked, add the ginger, garlic, chilli and Sichuan pepper. Stir-fry for about 15 seconds, then add the sugar, chilli bean paste, soy and oyster sauces and cook for a further 15 seconds.
Add the chicken stock and cook until the liquid has reduced to your desired consistency. You’ll know when it’s done as the sauce should coat the meat but still be ‘saucy’. Remove the wok from the heat and add the Shaoxing wine and chilli oil.
Gently ladle the pork over the cooked custards. Top with a little extra ground Sichuan pepper and garnish with the spring onions and coriander leaves. Serve with steamed rice.
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