Tag Archives: cooking

GWT Mapo Tofu

Tofu gets a bad rap. Maybe because people try to parade it around like it’s something that it’s not. I’m looking at you, Tofurkey! Here’s a traditional Chinese way to cook tofu that is comforting, easy, and DELICIOUS.


Listen, don’t be intimidated by the Asian ingredients.  These days, this stuff can be found in most grocer’s Asian/Spanish food aisle. It always makes me laugh when I see those two food categories right next to each other at the market. Do we both really have to be marginalized to just half an aisle in the entire store? Also, why so pigeonholed, America? Where’s the half aisle of Moroccan food products? Or Portuguese products? I feel like I should start a petition. Also, if you really just can’t find that stuff, you can always order it online at Lee Kum Kee.

Anyway, three of the most versatile Chinese ingredients you can buy are up there: black bean sauce, chili garlic sauce, and the ubiquitous oyster sauce. Throw some black bean sauce into your next stir fry for a great savory boost, use chili garlic sauce in place of any hot sauce you might use, and any vegetable can be made better with oyster sauce.

Or you can mix them all together and make mapo tofu.


Start with cutting up the tofu right in the container if you like. I usually use soft tofu for this dish so I keep my chunks pretty big at the beginning since it will pretty much break apart by itself as I cook.




Next I fry up the garlic and pork, add the sauces and chicken stock, and let that all simmer a bit before adding the tofu:


Keep simmering then add the corn starch water to thicken. Make sure you mix it good, it should look like milk before you pour it in. Dissolving the corn starch in water rather than just throwing it straight into the sauce will keep it from clumping up into disgusting snot-like corn-starch boogers wading in your tofu. So DO IT.


Finally add the Sichuan pepper sauce and oyster sauce and stir to combine. Many traditional recipes will have you start with whole Sichuan peppercorns, crush them up with a rolling pin, then toast them in the wok first before cooking everything else. You can definitely do that too, you’ll get the same effect.

Note: If you’ve never had Sichuan peppercorns in a dish before, you might be in for a surprise. They’re not so much spicy as they are “tingly.” I don’t know the biochemical reaction that happens once it hits your tongue, but Sichuan pepper has this tingling, numbing effect that will give your tongue a buzz.  It’s wild.


Note: Try not to overstir, and use folding motions each time you mix rather than circular motions.  Every time you stir you run the risk of breaking apart the pieces of tofu, and over-stirring can really leave you with tiny bits of tofu.

Serve with steamed rice, and if you have a friend who is not a tofu fan, I dare you to challenge him to try this and still tell you he doesn’t like it. CHALLENGE HIM! Because he just might get embarrassed.



GWT Mapo Tofu

1-lb block of soft tofu, cut into 1” cubes
1/3 pound ground pork
1 cup chicken stock
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp. garlic black bean sauce
1 tbsp. chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 tbsp water
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp schezuan chili sauce or schezuan peppercorns crushed
Chopped scallions for garnish

Heat oil in wok over high heat and add pork, breaking it up so it is crumbled. When pork is browned, add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add black bean sauce, chili garlic sauce, and chicken stock to the pork, stir until combined, then add the corn starch+water so the liquid thickens into a sauce.  Add the tofu to the sauce and toss GENTLY to coat the tofu, being careful not to turn the tofu into mush. Cover pot and lower heat to a simmer for 5 min, uncover and add oyster sauce and Sichuan pepper sauce, stir again to combine.  The tofu should have firmed up a bit by this point but still be careful not to break it apart.

Sprinkle with scallions, serve with steamed rice.

goodwilltasting beer pairing suggestion: Brooklyn Lager

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Know Your Knives: Selection

This is important: THROW AWAY those dull, flimsy, stamped metal, $3.99 Ikea knives you bought back in college that couldn’t cut through Jell-O, and buy yourself a DECENT chef’s knife #realtalk.

For serious, the first time I cut through a tomato with a good, sharp, chef’s knife was a revelation to me. The knife glided through the skin without effort, went straight through the flesh down to the opposite side, and created a perfect circular slice begging to be placed on a burger. I was shocked. All those years of forcefully sawing through the skin of ripe tomatoes with sub-par knives, only to get deformed, oblong slices that were paper thin on one side and stupid fat on the other, wasted! If only I had a better knife, I could have been slicing with ease. Listen: making the change from a junk knife to a good knife can change your entire perspective on cooking.

So do yourself a favor, go to your local kitchenware store that has a decent selection of knives, and invest in something good to cut with. I guarantee* your enjoyment of cooking will increase ten-fold.

To get you ready for your purchase, I’d like to introduce you to my knife.  A no-frills, German-made Wüsthof Classic 8″ Chef’s Knife. Say hello, and note all the different parts:


This may sound funny, but get to know your knife anatomy. All kitchen knives have these components and knowing about their variations is what will help you to select your knife. Not seen in this picture is the tang, which is the metal strip that extends from the blade and is usually covered by the handle, and actually plays a really important role in balancing the knife.

Selecting a knife is a little like buying a car. Different models perform differently, and the different performances will appeal to different people. Also, you’re buying something that you’ll probably be using for years to come, so most importantly, always take the product on a test run before making your purchase.  When shopping, you’ll mainly encounter two styles of knives: European and Japanese (again much like cars, coincidentally). Here we’ll break down a couple of the more popular knife types out there:

European: Usually heavier, with a thicker spine, and a bigger bolster that comes all the way down to the heel, which adds some weight and leverage. Pros: Good for more heavy duty jobs like breaking down a chicken or cutting through thick winter squashes, ergonomic handle, the larger bolster can act as a finger guard if you’re worried about getting nicked. Cons: Not that pretty to look at, heaviness can cause you to fatigue faster if doing a lot of knife work, not as good at jobs that require a little finesse or a sharper edge, like thinly slicing fish.


Japanese: Usually lighter, with a thinner, rounded spine, smaller bolster (if any) at the end of the handle, usually has a cylindrical handle made of wood. Pros: The lighter knives allow for more maneuverability and control, thinner knives can have and maintain a sharper edge (especially because a lot of Japanese knives are made of high-carbon steel), thus making slicing delicate foods easier, smaller bolster makes it easier to sharpen the entire length of the blade, and last but not least, they are just beautiful knives. Seriously they are sexy. Cons: Not ideal for heavy duty jobs like breaking down a chicken, knives tend to be more brittle and the cutting edge requires more maintenance than the European style.


Carbon Steel: Carbon steel knives are starting to gain popularity again after about a century hiatus.  These are the blades people used to use before stainless steel was invented/perfected. They’re worth mentioning here just because I think they are bad ass. They tend to tarnish really fast and start looking like some medieval Game of Thrones blade after a while. They’re also easier to sharpen and maintain a sharper edge for a longer period of time.  If you take care of them and use the right cutting board you don’t have to sharpen them for like a year. Pros: They’re sharp and bad ass. Cons: A TON of maintenance and they rust right away if you don’t wash and dry them vigilantly. Also, although very sharp, they are more brittle and not as flexible so not great for heavy duty jobs.


Ceramic: I’m just gonna come out and say I probably will never buy a ceramic knife.  I think they look like little toy knives. But from what I’ve read, they supposedly keep their edge for much longer than your typical high-carbon steel knives, and tend to be lighter than stainless steel. Pros: Very sharp, very light, great for chopping veggies and boneless meats, more affordable. Cons: Looks like a kid’s toy (at least the white ceramic ones do), very brittle, not good for heavy duty jobs.


So there you go. For me, I tend to like the weight and the sturdiness of a European-style knife, and I just don’t think I have the discipline for all the maintenance required for a carbon knife.  One day I’d like to get a Japanese knife but for now my Wüsthof Classic is serving me well. But like I said, choosing a knife is a very personal thing, so what works for me will not necessarily work for you. Think about what you’re probably going to use your knife for most and go from there, and for goodness sake, go out and try some knives. See how they feel in your hand, try chopping a couple veggies if the store lets you (you might want to bring some of your own veggies to chop, or some stores, such as Sur La Table, usually have celery and carrots available for you), and get an idea of what you like and what’s comfortable. Don’t get caught up by brand names or by the sheer beauty of a knife. Unless you’re going to display it in your trophy case or if you’re going to juggle it in a circus, it really doesn’t matter what your knife looks like. Happy hunting!

Another little tidbit: A good knife should well-balanced if you hold it at the end of the handle, and angle slightly towards the blade side, like so:


Okay I hope this helps if you’re still reading.  Now go out and TREAT YO’ SELF!

(resource: Knives Cooks Love, by Sarah Jay)

*guarantee not guaranteed.

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