This recipe is from
The dish is named after the smallpox-scarred wife of a Qing Dynasty restaurateur who is said to have prepared it for the labourers passing her restaurant. As
Cut the beancurd into 2cm/¾in cubes and leave to steep in very hot or gently simmering water which you have lightly salted.
Slice the leeks at a steep angle into thin ‘horse-ear’ slices. Place a wok over a high flame, then add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the minced beef and stir-fry until it is crispy and
Turn the heat down to medium, add the chilli bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds until the oil is a rich red colour. Add the black fermented beans and ground chillies, if using, and stir-fry for another 20–30 seconds until they are both fragrant and the chillies have added their colour to the oil.
Pour in the stock, stir well, and add the drained beancurd. Mix it in gently by pushing the back of your ladle, or wok scoop, gently from the edges to the centre of the wok. Do not stir or the beancurd may break up. Season with the sugar, soy sauce and salt to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the beancurd has absorbed the flavours of the sauce.
Add the leeks and gently stir in. When they are just cooked, add the potato flour mixture in two or three stages, mixing well, until the sauce has thickened enough to cling glossily to the meat and beancurd. Don’t add more than you need.
Finally, pour everything into a deep bowl, scatter with the ground Sichuan pepper and serve.
© 2008 Christine McFadden. All rights reserved.