This fiery Sichuan classic is named for the pockmarked (po) wife (ma) who supposedly invented it at her husband's restaurant. (lagatta notes, in many versions, she is a widow, and it is HER little restaurant or stand).
- ¼ cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons hot bean paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Kosher salt
- 1 pound regular or soft (not silken) tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1½ to 2 tablespoons corn, peanut or canola oil
- ½ pound ground pork shoulder (preferably 75 percent lean)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced peeled ginger
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- 1½ teaspoons Japanese sesame oil
- ½ to 1 teaspoon toasted sansho powder
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
- Accompaniment: steamed rice
- To make the sauce: Stir together broth, bean paste, soy sauce, and kosher salt. Set aside.
- To poach the tofu: Slide tofu into a saucepan of simmering water and keep at a bare simmer while stir-frying rest of dish.
- To stir-fry the pork: Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot and add 1½ tablespoons corn oil, swirling to coat. Add pork and stir-fry, breaking up lumps and adding remaining ½ tablespoon corn oil if meat sticks, until no longer pink. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry over moderate heat until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.
- To finish the stir-fry: Stir reserved sauce, then add to pork and bring to a simmer. Drain tofu in a large sieve and slide into sauce, stirring gently.
- Stir cornstarch mixture and add to stir-fry. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook until thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds.
- Turn off heat and sprinkle with sesame oil, sansho powder, to taste, and 2 tablespoons scallion. Stir once or twice, then serve sprinkled with remaining tablespoon scallion.