By Popular Demand – Linda’s Recipies

Ma Po Dou Fu – Pock Marked Mother Chen’s Bean Curd

plentyAs our Chinese friends know, and many agree, this is the ultimate dish in Shanghai and Beijing. I never liked tofu until I came to China. Now I adore it. This is also the first Chinese dish I crave. In Shanghai, sometimes this dish is called Ma La Duo Fu.

In China, I had several recipes for this dish, none were any good. Now, thanks to Fuchsia Dunlop I can make it. She is a Sichuan (Szechwan) goddess. Her book Land of Plenty is entertaining and good. It would be 100% worth every penny just for this recipe.

Fuchsia recommends a sprinkling of ground beef, but we use ground pork as we are certain that’s what we liked in Shanghai. We also like to serve this American style, on rice.

1 block bean curd (trust me – you need soft, not silken tofu, not extra firm either)
4 baby leeks (I use green onions- this recipe really wants Chinese onions, which look like green onions and are much stronger- but they are generally not available in Chicago)
?Ǭ? C peanut oil
6 oz ground beef (we use ground pork)
2 ?Ǭ? TBSP Sichuan chili bean paste (I bought this in China, but it is available in my Chinese market here, another name according to Fuchsia is dou ban jiang).
1 TBSP fermented black beans
2 TBSP ground Sichuan chilies (in Shanghai, ground Sichuan pepper is readily available, I bought lots of the kind made by McCormicks)
1 cup stock (I use whatever kind we have)
1 tsp white sugar
2 tsp light soy sauce
4 TBSP cornstarch mixed with 6 TBSP cornstarch
?Ǭ? tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper

I roast the peppercorns then grind them up some. I think in China they use them whole. I also add dry Sichuan peppers cut and their seeds to the skillet then roast them too. I have not seen these peppers in the US, I think they are important in China, but Fuchsia knows they are hard to get so she does not list them.

Cut the bean curd into 1-inch cubes and leave to steep in very hot or gently simmering water that you have lightly salted. Slice the leeks at a steep angle into thin “horse ear” slices 1 ?Ǭ? inches long.

Season the wok, then add the peanut oil and heat over a high flame until smoking. Add the minced beef and stir fry until it is crispy and a little brown, but not yet dry.

Turn the heat down to medium, add the chili bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the oil is a rich red color. Add the fermented black beans and ground chilies and stir-fry for an additional 20-30 seconds until they are both fragrant add the chilies have added their color to the oil.

Pour in the stock, stir well and add the drained bean curd. Mix it gently by pushing the back of your ladle or wok scoop gently from the edges to the center of the wok – do not stir or the bean curd may break up. Season with sugar, a couple of tsp of soy sauce and salt to taste. Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the bean curd has absorbed the flavors of the sauce.

Add the leeks or scallions and gently stir in. When they are just cooked, add the cornstarch mixture in two or three stages, mixing well until the sauce has thickened enough to cling glossily to the meat and bean curd. Don’t add more than you need. Finally, pour everything into a deep bowl, scatter with the ground Sichuan pepper and serve.

Note regarding Sichuan Peppercorns – when we were living in China, we read the FDA prohibited importation of these due to a “Citrus Canker” experienced by orange trees. Recently, according to the Chicago Tribune, this ban has been lifted.

Linda’s Mushroom Lasagna

From The Cucina Bella Cookbook by Mark Donaway & Susan Shafer.

This recipe is simple but time consuming. I generally prepare the ingredients the day before when we plan to serve this at a dinner party. I think you probably need to allow at least four hours to make this.

The recipe comes from a Chicago restaurant called Cucina Bella. Once at least five years ago, we went to dinner there and ate at a kitchen table with some friends. We were not familiar with this restaurant, but our friends were discriminant diners and really recommended it. The mushroom lasagna was so good I bought the cookbook to get the recipe. Luckily, I talked to the chef before buying the book and he told me the secret ingredient for mushroom lasagna – mushroom soy sauce. The recipe in the book only includes mushroom soy sauce in mushroom cream sauce, not in the lasagna recipe, but I add it anyway – it is a secret ingredient. You can buy mushroom soy sauce in Asian markets and it is actually a secret ingredient anytime you cook with mushrooms?¢‚Ǩ¬¶

If you can’t get the mushroom soy sauce, and you should seek it out – trust me. At least add some regular soy sauce. It won’t be as good but it will be better than nothing.


3 ?Ǭ? lb portabella mushrooms (stems removed & chopped fine, caps slices ?Ǭº inch think)
1 white onion (diced thin)
1 oz olive oil
1 oz lemon juice
3 oz flour
2 lb spinach

1 ?Ǭ? lb grater provolone
1 lb Ricotta
?Ǭ? lb grated Parmesan
20 oz lasagna noodles (uncooked) – I always use cooked noodles
3 oz unsalted butter
2 ?Ǭ? quarts of heavy whipping cream (trust me – 2 quarts is PLENTY!)

2 TBSP mushroom soy sauce

In a large pan, heat olive oil and slowly cook onions. Add mushroom caps and cook on low for 45 minutes. This is important. Cook the onions 10 – 15 minutes, then really cook the mushroom stems at least 45. Remove mixture to food processor, grind and set aside.

Using the same pan, cook the mushrooms caps until tender (4-5 minutes). Set aside.

Using a heavy pot, reduce lemon juice by 1/2. Add butter and flour to make a light mix. Add heavy cream, reduce heat and still occasionally until the juice has dissolved. Add ground mixture and the mushroom soy sauce and cook for 45 minutes on low heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

This sauce will be so delicious by the time you finish, that you will consider not even making lasagna, just eating it yourself with a spoon. If you have any left over, it will be delicious on noodles.

To assemble the lasagna: In a lasagna pan layer the raw lasagna noodles. Place spinach, cheeses, mushroom caps and sauce in layers. Continue this process, remembering to save some cheeses for the top. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes at 450. Remove foil and brown cheese on the top for 10 minutes. Let sit at least 10 minutes so you don’t burn yourself.

Slice and serve hot. Serves 8 – 10. Also makes great leftovers.

Linda’s Spring rolls

From Cuisine Magazine, Issue #13, Jan/Feb 1999

Cuisine recommends either of two types of wraps – spring roll wrappers or rice paper. I have a DRAMATIC preference for the rice paper wraps. The look and taste better. You are going to go to a lot of trouble to make these, make them good.

Makes about 14 rolls

Soy Sauce
Brown sugar
Rice vinegar
Sesame oil
8 oz pork loin
14 small shrimp
1 sweet potato
1 bunch cellophane noodles
cider vinegar
rice roll sheets – get twice as many as you need for breaks and mistakes
1 ?Ǭ? C shiitake mushrooms
Napa cabbage
1 leek

Combine marinade ingredients
For the marinade combine:
?Ǭº C soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 T rice vinegar
2 T sesame oil
1 ?Ǭ? T cornstarch
1 T garlic minced
1 T ginger minced

8 oz pork loin cut in 2 X ?Ǭº strips

Let stand 15 minutes. Stir fry pork with marinade over medium heat until no longer pink. Let cool.

Blanch and drain:
2 c sweet potato, grated
Blanch shredded sweet potato in boiling water for 2 minutes. Rinse with cold water and drain. Spread on paper towel lined plate to continue drying.

Blanch and halve lengthwise:
14 small shrimp
Peel shrimp. Plunge into boiling water for 1 ?Ǭ? minutes, until cooked. Drain and let cool. Halve shrimp lengthwise and remove any veins. Set aside.

Soak and drain
1 bunch cellophane noodles
Soak dried noodles in boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain well and cut into short pieces with scissors.

Remove stems from mushrooms and slice caps into strips.

Shred leafy parts of cabbage into thin strips with a knife.

Halve leeks lengthwise and cut into 2″ pieces then julienne pieces.

Pick out 14 nice cilantro leaves from the bundle. Pinch the leaves off the stem.

Keep rice papers in package until you are ready so they don’t curl.
Soak rice papers one at a time in 2 C hot water and ?Ǭº C cider vinegar

Place softened sheet on a damp towel. Put a second sheet in liquid. Arrange fillings, except shrimp and cilantro, on the bottom edge of the softened sheet.

Pull the sheet over the filling. Tuck edges under the filling as you go up. Roll the sheet halfway up then arrange 2 shrimp halves and 1 cilantro leaf top-side down on rice sheet.

Fold sides of the rice paper in to enclose the filling. This will allow the shrimp and cilantro to show through.

Finish rolling. Place finished rolls seam-side down on a tray that has been lined with damp paper towels. Cover with damp paper towels.

I use two sauces:
One with half soy sauce and half rice vinegar. I shake in some red pepper flakes.

A second with SiRaCha a red Chinese sauce with a chicken on the bottle and a green top. Put some rice vinegar in a bowl, squirt in the sauce to taste and mix.

The actual recipe calls for the following Thai peanut sauce:

Combine and bring to a boil
?Ǭ? C hoisin sauce
?Ǭ? C creamy peanut butter
?Ǭ? C low-sodium chicken broth
3 T light soy sauce
3 T honey
2 T garlic, minced
2 T ginger, minced
2 T sesame oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T sugar
1 T chili sauce with garlic

Chicken, Where Are You?

And The Winner Is

Brynmar Bland accurately identified the location of our first Chicken pic:

The chicken is somewhere in Cambodia, outside of some sort of tomb or tribute to some goddesses of that area. I’m not even close, am I?


Indeed, the devatas with the Apsara headdresses and costumes are found in the inner courtyard of the second enclosure at the temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We did not mark the exact spot of the photo, so it is possible they are within the first enclosure.

Beautiful and striking even after hundreds of years. Rub their breasts for good luck.

The Next Chic Pic

OK, the next pic is a bit of a trick. Click here to see the next chicken picture and follow the Chronicles of the Chicken.