Think, Read, Cook

Because no single way of eating works for everybody.

Should You Say “Yes” to the Pockmarked Old Woman?


Soy is another of those Good For You/ Bad For You foods.

As this Globe and Mail article and this Huffington Post story point out, soybean products provide high quality protein, Omega-3s, and fibre, as well as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. However, soy is also bad for babies’ sexual development and interferes with thyroid function. It’s a major cause of allergies. It’s good and bad for menopausal women. And of course, it can both cause and prevent cancer! Just to make things more interesting, This AltMedToday article states that unfermented soy products like tofu, soy milk and textured vegetable protein will give you all kinds of horrible problems, while fermented soy products such as soy sauce, tempeh and natto are good for you.

So it’s obvious that soy is (a) a miraculous source of  health, and (b) run away screaming ’cause we’re all going to die. Vegetarians and vegans love it. Paleo dieters hate it. It’s wonderful! It’ll kill you! No it won’t! Yes it will! Oh yeah? Yeah! It’s like a schoolyard fight.

So how does my soy-based confusion relate to the elderly woman in the title of this post? The one with the unfortunate complexion?

Well, I’ve cobbled together this recipe for mapo tofu, from spare parts of other recipes; and though I say it myself, this one is pretty good. “Mapo tofu” is a traditional Chinese dish whose name roughly translates to mean “pock-marked old woman tofu”. It’s not clear why; though, if your skin looked like mapo tofu, “pock-marked” would be the kindest thing you could say about it. Anyway, knowing that tofu, being a soy product, is both Good For You and Bad For You… do you want to try this recipe?

Unless you have soy allergies, I don’t think the odd dish of mapo tofu is going to be fatal. But it’s as well you know the risks before you plunge your chopsticks in!

Mapo Tofu


1 lb firm tofu

4 ounces ground pork

1 Tablespoon cooking oil

1 Tablespoon Chinese-style chili paste, or hot sauce to taste

3 Tablespoons chicken stock

3 green onions

1 teaspoon Chinese-style black bean paste (or to taste)

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed ginger (or to taste)

A splash of Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry, if desired


1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

Thickening Mixture:

1 Tablespoon cornstarch

¼ cup water

A little soy sauce if desired


1.  Mix marinade ingredients.

2.  Mix pork into marinade, and marinate for about 20 minutes.

3.  While pork is marinating: combine ingredients for thickening mixture.  Cut bean curd into ½ inch square cubes.  Chop green onions into short lengths.

4.  Heat wok or frying pan and add oil.  When oil is heated, add the marinated pork and stir-fry until pink colour disappears.

5.  Add black bean paste and stir. Stir in chili paste or hot sauce, then add chicken stock, tofu, and green onions.

6.  Lower heat and cook for 3 – 4 minutes.

7.  Raise heat, stir up thickening mixture, add to pan and stir gently until mixture boils and thickens.

8.  Serve with rice, or with steamed ground cauliflower if you’re grain-free.


6 comments on “Should You Say “Yes” to the Pockmarked Old Woman?

  1. Sam Han
    May 9, 2013

    Mapo Tofu is one of my fav food 🙂

  2. The Wandering Gourmand
    May 10, 2013

    Something about tofu scares away my inner caveman…

    • thinkreadcook
      May 10, 2013

      That’s why you add the ground pork, to combat all that bean-ness… actually, this dish is also pretty good if you just substitute more ground pork for the tofu! 🙂

      • The Wandering Gourmand
        May 11, 2013

        I like the way you roll!

      • thinkreadcook
        May 11, 2013

        😀 Pork is so tasty; I’d have a terrible time belonging to a religion where I wasn’t allowed to eat it!

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