Chinese food. It’s a mystery. It tastes one way in a restaurant and completely different at home. Sure it’s a different kind of cooking or maybe it’s just a whole different world. I dunno. I got this recipe for mapo tofu from the New York Times. (You can see it here) And after a quick glance at the ingredients l felt like I didn’t have everything I needed so I went to 2 different Asian stores in search of such things as “spicy broad bean paste.” On the one hand I like shopping in foreign countries but these were far and away more foreign than most things I’ve encountered outside of the USofA.
$7,425 later I got home (and I will admit that I may have purchased some items just because I might have heard them mentioned on a YouTube or because the packaging was interesting) and a quick check with the recipe revealed that none of these were the right thing. When I’d asked a clerk at the one store he had no idea what I was talking about, granted it was really a Vietnamese store but I thought I’d give it a shot (mapo tofu is Chinese) and the other store where I may have had more success there were 80 people in line and the poor harried woman checking us out appeared to be the only person working so I wasn’t going to engage her in some kinda lame, “So, funny story, I saw this recipe in the New York Times—I have a subscription—but really only for the word games . . . do you play Wordle?” I just checked out without finding spicy broad bean paste (and believe me, I looked). I wonder if she’d noticed that I had an Edwin shopping bag with Japanese lettering on it so I could be, you know, at one with my Asian brethren.
Anyway, long story longer, I made the mapo tofu and as I imagined, it was nothing like the mapo tofu that we get in Chinese restaurants. Tofu, I dunno, tastes like nothing to me. It would have been fine without the tofu, or at least less tofu, more mapo.