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The other day when I was dining at the new Sichuan Pavilion in Rockville, I noticed that the restaurant’s ma po tofu came with ground beef. Until that moment, I had only seen the dish offered with ground pork. I asked the waitress whether beef or pork was the more traditional protein in ma po tofu.
She stood there blankly for a second. Language was obviously a barrier, but I felt my very question was foreign to her. She went to fetch someone else.
I repeated my question, and the response I got was what I should have expected: “Ours comes with ground beef.”
This Epicurious video, featuring chef Shirley Cheng from the Culinary Institute of America, seems to answer that question. Beef is more traditional, but pork and chicken are also used to add flavor to the dish. It’s an interesting watch.