Today I met up with the Michigan crew and spent the day at the beach. The weather was absolutely perfect, in the low 30s and sunny, and it was a great way to relax after a long week at the office. We met up down near Kamakura late in the morning and staked out a spot on the beach. We'd picked up some juice and tea on the way and I'd brought pineapple and grapefruit, so we started off with some of that. The beach is lined with little shacks and bars selling food and drink, so everybody grabbed a bit from there throughout the day as well. I tried to be fairly diligent with the use of sunscreen but alas, as always, ended up burning. I take some comfort in knowing that even the asian kids I was with, who are far less prone to sunburn than I am, ending up looking pretty red. The sun really is a different beast here and it will rock you if you aren't careful...
As I mentioned, this past work week was a long one and not a good week in food for me. Work was crazy busy, with the earliest day ending a little after 10pm and racking up almost a months worth of overtime, so I didn't cook a single proper dinner the whole week. I often packed a lunch to eat as dinner while I was at the office and often had a granola loaded smoothie as a meal substitute. I wasn't particularly ever in the mood for eating (it happens to me sometimes) so I didn't eat very much over the course of the week and I'm pretty sure I lost some weight. Sadly, most of the muscle mass I'd built up during the earlier part of the summer has fallen off during the past few weeks and I'm pretty much just skinny now. Hopefully I can get myself back into the habit of regular exercise again and get back in shape.
After such an unimpressive eats, I felt the need to make up for it this weekend. I had some tofu in the fridge that was in need of eating soon, so I went for one of my staple dishes that's not terribly difficult to make but tastes so damn good: mabo tofu. Really the only problem I ever have with the dish is that it's so easy to make too much and so hard to not eat it all. Fortunately the ingredients are all cheap and for what honestly couldn't cost me more than 5 dollars tops I made enough to comfortably serve 2-3 people. I always am generous with the chili sauce because I like it spicy, but this time I also tried added some garlic and black bean sauce which I thought worked out really well. The meal comes together fairly quickly and honestly doesn't require much attention. To be honest, if you put in most of the main ingredients in reasonable proportions, you're pretty much guaranteed to end up with a delicious dish.
~15og ground pork
200g firm tofu
1.5 tbs toubanjan (chili sauce)
1 tbs garlic and black bean sauce
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 stems of green onions, minced (save about a tbs of the green part for garnishing)
1 Japanese long onion, cut on the bias (it's a lot like a leek)
1 tbs tenmenjan (sweet black bean sauce)
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs shao xing rice wine
salt, pepper, and sichaun peppercorns to taste
1.5 tbs cornstarch disolved in 3 tbs water
Saute the pork, toubanjan, and garlic & black bean sauce until the pork is mostly cooked. I don't use any oil since there tends to be enough fat in the ground meat already. Add the ginger, garlic, long onion, and most of the green onion and saute for another 30 seconds or so. Add the tenmenjan, soy sauce, and shao xing then stir everything until well combined. Stir in the salt, pepper and sichaun peppercorns, then add the cornstarch and mix thoroughly. I usually drop the heat a bit before adding the cornstarch to help buy some time to mix it in evenly before it thickens too much. Otherwise, you might end up with some kinda goopy bits and that's just not fun. Let it all simmer for a bit until it's close to the desired consistency (I like it fairly thick) then gentley stir in the tofu. Give it another minute after that to make sure the tofu gets completely heated (a bite of cold tofu in this dish would just be weird), sprinkle with the saved green onion and a bit more sichaun peppercorn, then serve.