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Toast Sichuan peppercorns in a dry saute pan for a few minutes, stirring constantly until they are aromatic and darken slightly. Grind in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until fine.
Heat a wok or a saute pan over medium high heat, add the ground beef (no oil needed) and the soy sauce. Cook the beef, stirring constantly to break it up into small pieces, until the water that comes out of the meat has evaporated and the beef is browned slightly.
Turn off the heat and remove the beef with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind. If your beef is quite lean and there isn't much fat left, add a little more cooking oil to the pan so there's enough to saute the garlic and ginger.
Turn the heat back on to medium, add garlic and ginger and saute until the garlic starts to turn golden. Add ground black pepper, half of the ground Sichuan peppercorns (or all of it if you like more of the numbness and aroma), the broad bean paste and the black beans. Saute the herbs and seasoning for about 30 seconds, then deglaze with stock, scraping off any bits that are stuck to the bottom.
Add sugar, Chinese cooking wine, and the beef; simmer gently for 5 mins.
Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in about 3 Tbsp of cold water.
When the sauce is done simmering, pour in half of the cornstarch slurry while stirring, and let it come back to a simmer. Check the sauce for thickness, and if it's still too runny, add a little bit more of the cornstarch slurry until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Add the tofu to the sauce and gently nudge the tofu around so it is sitting in one layer. Spoon some the sauce over the tofu, then let it simmer gently for another 5 minutes.
Transfer onto a serving bowl, drizzle with more chili oil if desired, and garnish with chopped green onions and some of the reserved Sichuan peppercorns if desired. Tip: Some people do not like the numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns, so it might be safe to serve the extra Sichuan pepper on the side so people can sprinkle on more if they want it.
Serve with jasmine rice, and enjoy!
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