I sat here for hours struggling with how to begin the sentence. Stranger things have happened in this world I’m sure, I mean I could swear I saw a sea creature that looks like a glowing condom on the internet, but from where I stand, it doesn’t get more inexplicable than what I’m feeling right now.

It began in 2012. It was just about two years into our miserable six years-long residence in Beijing. In a form of self-abandonment almost, I started this food blog.

With no enthusiasm or objectives, setting out more to be a concession than a declaration, I did what I thought was throwing the white flag to all my other grander ambitions in life, that I was going to be that person, “a blogger”, a non-job made up by people whom I judged, past tense, to be minimally interesting that they had to put themselves on speaker. It wasn’t brave. It wasn’t inspired. It was never expected to arrive anywhere. I was standing on the edge of a cliff. All these thoughts were running through my mind. Would people even read it? Would I even have enough things to write about? My friends kept telling me to look into companies like Ceres PR, who specializes in food marketing and public relations, to see if they had any advice on how to market my blog and to get it recognized. What a great idea. And I consider it every day, but I just wanted to see for myself if what I did would work. And that’s when I took the extra step.

The least of what I saw coming was that seven years later, I am to publish a book about this journey. I’ve been contacted by several publishing companies over the years and have even considered self-publishing but this is finally it! I’ve done it.

So yes, a Lady And Pups Cookbook. The Art of Escapism Cooking – A Survival Story.

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This book is about my time in Beijing, what started it all. If you are kind of new here, then yeah, no, I didn’t enjoy that. This book is an self-reflective examination of how I retreated to my kitchen as a place to evade from my unpleasant realities. What was wrong, what wasn’t, and answers that I am still unsure of today. It’s honest but also contradictory, opinionated but nonetheless a personal truth. An internal monologue, despicably self-serving and personal, almost to a fault. Because for me this is more than a cookbook. It’s therapy. It’s closure. It’s my attempt to draw a conclusion to what was a very difficult time of my life, to put the unsettlement to rest. You may find it funny. You may find it bitter. You may even find it obnoxious at times. But it was what I had to say in the way that I had to say it, screaming and kicking, uncensored, crude, to boil my emotions down to something better than the ingredients of its making, a consommé of the nasty bits of my experience. If you find that it resonates, I’m glad that you know you are not alone. But if you don’t, then there are 80+ really fucking good recipes with it.

The book will be officially published in October but pre-order is available now. Here is a recipe preview, of page 288 if you want to be precise. I formulated the recipe list when I was still living in Beijing, but most of the book and recipes were written and shot after I left. It is spoken in retrospect, a memoir if you will, where I am better equipped to find humor in past tense. I know I have been away from this blog for quite awhile, but from now on I will be posting more regularly again and continue to share sneak peeks.

I know I should be beating the drums right now. But really, I just want to say Thank you. You’ve made a very strange thing possible in my life. Now go buy it, too.


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Tofu is bland. Don’t let its supporters, including me, tell you otherwise. Flying solo, it carries a subtle but offbeat taste that comes from soy milk, which, depending on whether you grew up accustomed to it or not, could either be a very good or a very bad thing. Having said that, I love tofu, perhaps in the truest sense because I wholly embrace it for what it is, but more important, what it isn’t.

Tofu is not about taste. Tofu is a texture thing.

Hard, medium, silken like panna cotta–think of tofu as a mere vessel, an empty field of impending dreams. It’s like Mars, if you will, in that any exciting thing about it has to be outsourced, like Matt Damon. This will open up a whole window of promise.

Tofummus, for example, is what happens when you turn the least popular end of the spectrum of tofu, the firm variety, into a silken, creamy, luscious bed of hummus-like substance that begs for company. In this case, its soulmate, if you know what I’m talking about.

This is mapo tofu, the quintessential icon of Sichuan cuisine, one of its most successful exports across the world, numbing with Sichuan peppercorns and fiery with fermented chile bean paste, turned into a dip (an overdue development, if you ask me). The tongue-stinging, blood-red chile oil and deeply savory pork bits are immediately cooled down by the silky smooth touch of the pureed tofu, the most delicious reconciliation on the taste buds. And if you’re feeling kinky, make it a threesome with chewy scallion and garlic naan.

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  • 3.2 oz (90 grams) ground pork or beef
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp potato starch or cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sichuan douban/chili bean paste (see pantry)
  • 1 tsp mushroom powder (see pantry)
  • 1/2 tsp finely minced fermented black bean, or 1 tsp the darkest miso you can find
  • 1/2~3/4 tsp Korean chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground sichuan peppercorns, plus more to dust
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp shoaxing wine or sherry wine
  • 1/4 cup store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp apricot jam
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 5 drops rice vinegar
  • finely diced scallion to serve
  • 14 oz (450 grams) firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp garlic confit puree (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 tsp salt


  1. MAKE GARLIC CONFIT PUREE: Smash 35 cloves (about 2 1/2 heads) of garlic with a knife and remove the skins. Set inside a non-stick pot along with 4 fresh bay leaves, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of canola oil, 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/4 tsp ground white pepper. Cook over medium-low~low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlics are evenly golden browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the rest into a blender (or you can do this with hand-held immersion blender), and blend until the mixture is smooth. Keep in an air-tight jar inside the fridge for up to 2 week. Stir before use.
  2. MAKE MAPO SAUCE: Mix ground pork (or beef) with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and potato starch (or cornstarch) until even.
  3. In a small pot, heat canola oil and toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat, breaking it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon, and cook until evenly browned. Add douban paste, mushroom powder, fermented black bean (or dark miso) and chili flakes, store and cook for 1~2 minutes until the chili flakes have turned dark maroon in color. Add grated garlic, grated ginger, ground sichuan peppercorn and ground cumin, and cook until just fragrant. Add shaoxing wine, scraping any caramelization that is sticking to the sides and bottom of the pot, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, then add chicken stock, apricot jam, ground white pepper and rice vinegar.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by 1/2 and slightly thickened. Can be made a couple days ahead of time. Reheat until warm before serving.
  5. MAKE TOFUMMUS: Tofu is made from boiled soy milk which makes it technically “cooked”. But if you’re not a fan of the taste of soy bean, boiling the tofu again will make it taste more well-rounded. But it may also make the puree slightly grittier. If you decided to boil it, cut the tofu into marshmallow-size chunks and cook them in boiling water for 5 min. Drain well, and let cool on top of a clean towel, then transfer into a food-processor.
  6. If not boiling, simply pat the tofu dry with a clean towel, then set inside a food-processor. Run the processor for 1~2 minutes until the tofu is smoothly pureed. Add garlic confit puree, toasted sesame oil and salt, and run again until incorporated. The tofummus should still be quite tasteless at this point.
  7. Serve the tofummus covered in warmed mapo sauce, topped with finely minced scallions and dustings of more ground sichuan peppercorns. Serve with chewy scallion garlic naan (recipe in the book).
  • Evelyn

    June 5, 2019 at 9:33 PM Reply

    Congratulations! I’d love to own a copy of your cookbook!

  • Jill Southworth

    June 5, 2019 at 9:50 PM Reply

    What grand news!
    I stumbled blindly across your blog, during your time Beijing, and marveled at its flavours , harsh sophistication and dark beauty.
    Good on ya!

  • Candace M.

    June 5, 2019 at 10:24 PM Reply

    Not to be creepy – but I’ve missed you! Your writing really delights me and stumbling upon this blog has been the happiest of accidents. I actually came to check on you last week, but saw no new recipes had been posted in a bit… imagine my delight after opening your newsletter this morning! Great way to start my Wednesday. Congratulations on your book, I look forward to reading it and every recipe that follows.

  • Nevin Ng

    June 5, 2019 at 10:27 PM Reply

    Congratulations!!!! I love reading your stories…. best there is Kindle version available! Immediately pre-ordered.

  • Lisa Zografou

    June 5, 2019 at 10:33 PM Reply

    Two years ago I swore I would not buy a cookbook again. It had become nonsense with all these books stacking unused on my library. But when you announced that you had a book to be published, I knew there I had a good excuse to buy Just.One.More. And I will be proud to have it on my library, for what you do is more than a food blog. BTW, happy that you are back! Now excuse me, I have to make a pre-order.

  • Larkin Mott

    June 6, 2019 at 1:10 AM Reply

    What fabulous news!! My daughter introduced me to your blog and the first recipe I tried was your “Bunker Crack Slurp”. Soon after it was your World Peace Curry that became a staple in my home. It is outstanding! I have enjoyed your posts, your recipes and passages of life that you have shared. I have patiently waited to hear the news of your cookbook since you mentioned it was in creation. I have pre-ordered 2 copies! One for my self and my daughter. CONGRATULATIONS!! Thank you for letting us tag along on your creative journey!

  • Jess

    June 6, 2019 at 2:19 AM Reply

    Yay!! So excited to get my hands on this cookbook. You are a unique voice Mandy and I appreciate you!!

  • M Lee

    June 6, 2019 at 2:35 AM Reply

    Oh yay you’re still at recipes! I have checked back often, in hopes of new creations.

    Not surprised your new creation is a cookbook! Will you consider selling some signed copies? I’d love to get my hands on a couple for myself and my friends!

  • CMC

    June 6, 2019 at 3:34 AM Reply

    I just pre-ordered on Amazon out of gratitude for the best roast chicken recipe ever and in utter excitement for what other recipes I will discover and love. The chicken itself has saved us from spousal crises, domesticity dullness, and it has made me very popular among friends (they ask me to cook “the chicken” quite often). Thank you!

  • Morgan

    June 6, 2019 at 4:08 AM Reply

    ¡Viva La Liberation!
    We have missed you here! I am very excited about reading your cookbook/memoir. You’re blog posts always make my day. Welcome back!

  • L L

    June 6, 2019 at 7:19 AM Reply

    Quietly following your blog for a long time.
    Can’t wait to get my hands on the book.
    Any chance this will be sold on though?

  • Tamara

    June 6, 2019 at 8:06 AM Reply

    Like others I have been patiently waiting your return! Yes, I know you’ve been off doing beautiful things with interior design-but I was hoping you’d return to your first-ahem-love. Can’t wait for the book!! Congratulations!

  • Linda

    June 6, 2019 at 9:56 AM Reply

    Hello Mandy from Vancouver
    I will definitely buy your book. your take on everything delicious is quite unique. I have spent quite a bit of time in China and I have followed you for a long time so congratulations on your book. However I am not sure about the book cover..,hmmm….what can I say? Not illustrative of what you are about. Not appealing on a sensory level. , But what do I know!
    However kudos , to you for publishing your book. your recipes are amazing.. wishing you success!

  • Saurs

    June 6, 2019 at 7:21 PM Reply

    Long-time lurker, etc. throat-clearing aside: a hearty woo-hoo in your direction. I was getting a bit nervous, and I also wonder whether you track your unique pagehits and if you notice all of us routinely (twice a day or more) checking up on you here. So happy to learn your absence is not an entirely unhappy one. I really miss your stories, your voice, your METHODS. I was thinking of embarking, old school inter webs-like, on something old-fashioned, like printing out your entire website, Now I can save some money and buy your book. :)

    Congratulations on this, truly.

  • Jillian B

    June 7, 2019 at 5:28 AM Reply

    CONGRATULATIONS!! As someone who has been following your blog for many years now, I am so proud of how far you’ve come on this journey. Thank you for bringing us such complicated and incredibly delicious recipes that make us work hard for it. Cooking through your blog has made me a better home chef and has broadened my horizons of what I thought was possible in my own kitchen. Thank you thank you thank you. Can’t wait to tear into the book itself – this is honestly up there with the last four harry potter books as my most anticipated pre-orders of all time.

  • Yvonne

    June 7, 2019 at 1:19 PM Reply

    My sister introduced me to you through turmeric butter chicken. am sold and pre-ordering the book :)

  • Colleen Gibney

    June 8, 2019 at 8:00 AM Reply

    I’m definitely going to purchase your book. Thanks for being real about a tough time, and not faking it.

  • Chai J

    June 11, 2019 at 5:19 PM Reply

    Mandy, oh my god. I remember back in the day your silence when others ask whether there will be a cookbook, like most bloggers would do. I then proceeded to print out your recipes and staple them together, library style but were hoping one day a cookbook will come along. And it did! It just so happened that I had to relocate to Beijing for work not so long ago, this sometimes ugly mostly uncomfortable place that you also hated. So thank you for bringing light into my life. I shall press that pre-order button once I settle down on a semi-permanent address. THANK YOU.

  • Jason Stickler

    June 12, 2019 at 11:03 PM Reply

    Your blog is the best. We are food soul mates. Normally I find it difficult to find something I feel like cooking on other food blogs. Yours I want to cook everything. It is the perfect blog for me. I will definitely be buying the book. Thank you for the hard work.

  • Aman Lakhiani

    June 13, 2019 at 4:17 AM Reply

    Congratulations Mandy on the cookbook. I have followed you for a long time now and could not be more excited. I am a professional chef and still often draw inspiration from you. Your creativity and writing knows no bounds and I wish you the best. I couldn’t be happier for you. Congratulations! Will definitely have a copy on my shelf!

  • Lori

    June 13, 2019 at 12:25 PM Reply

    Couldn’t be prouder of you, Mandy! I’m a retired food blogger (did it for 12 years) and also came out with a cookbook.memoir. Enjoy these magical times, looking forward to the book.

  • T

    June 18, 2019 at 10:42 AM Reply

    Is typical doubanjiang from Sichuan always made with chilis? I went to Chinatown this past weekend and saw there were two types of doubanjiang – one spicy and one non spicy. I bought the non spicy one and now that I am rereading your instructions, I see that I bought the wrong one. When would one use non spicy doubanjiang?

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      June 18, 2019 at 1:13 PM Reply

      T, non-spicy doubanjiang is quite uncommon and when people refer to “sichuan doubanjiang”, it’s almost always spicy. You can still use the non-spicy doubanjiang to season dishes where doubanjiang is used and see if that yields a good non-spicy result

  • Hollis Evon Ramsey

    June 18, 2019 at 3:25 PM Reply

    first-time visitor here. a FB foodie friend recommended you while we were discussing gribenes (fried chicken skin), so i got here ASAP. you had me at the first recipe: Mapo Tofummus!!! i suspect that you attract readers and cooks like me — eclectic, outside-the-box, literary-friendly types with taste buds that fire on all 12 cylinders. despite not having read any other recipes than the Mapo one, despite not having enough money in my bank account to do some necessary grocery shopping, despite not having yet cooked anything from your site — despite all those things, consider me a very excited pre-orderer! and many thanks to Erin, who recommended The Lady and Pups!

  • Scarlett Koller

    June 22, 2019 at 6:48 AM Reply

    Longtime reader here who has often used your blog as a respite from my aerospace engineering degree, and now my space systems engineering work…for once I disagree with you! I spend my professional life on finding out new and *definitely* exciting things about Mars that don’t need to be outsourced to it (though I’ll grant you Matt Damon is a plus). David Bowie’s on my side here.
    I’m curious about this tofummus – one of the things I like best about mapo tofu is the slippery texture of the tofu cubes. Also, in your mapo tofu recipe from a couple years ago (which I use, and which I like, though I add more doubanjiang) you make no mention of pork or apricot jam, and land in the “No” camp regarding the use of dou-shi. I’ve made it and eaten it with both pork and beef so I guess flexibility is implied on that. I take it the apricot is for a bit of sweetness? When I first made yours I thought it could use some, so I added some gochujang. Do you find the apricot flavor comes through here? Is the jam key or would another fruit/sugar source work?
    Also, it seems like you have come around to the addition of fermented black bean dou-shi. Would you say it’s worth the effort to seek it out for this different configuration – does the higher fraction of blank-slate tofu in this version beg for an additional injection of flavor?
    You haven’t steered me wrong yet. So I may well end up, despite my skepticism, making some mapo tofummus per your suggestions. One thing I’m confident I will do is buy the book.

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      June 22, 2019 at 10:37 AM Reply

      Scarlett, yes the jam adds a touch of sweetness to balance the saltiness as in many Chinese dishes. You won’t taste any fruitiness because it’s in such small amount, and I sometimes use it in dishes in replacement of sugar. I think dou-shi is a traditional ingredient in MAPO tofu and it does add another flavor to the dish, but I think if it’s hard for you to source, replacing it with extra dark miso works, too.

  • Melinda Silva

    December 14, 2020 at 11:54 PM Reply

    I like books a lot and think that reading and learning new things make us rich. Cooking is my new hobby, and I would be happy to write a book. I am the writer at website so I have enough knowledges in this field. Once I gather as many good recipes as in your book, I will publish the one by myself. Thanks for inspiration.

  • Charly Wiliamse

    January 31, 2021 at 6:49 AM Reply

    I didn’t have any expectations concerning that title, but the
    more I was astonished. The author did a great job. I spent a few minutes
    reading and checking the facts. Everything is very clear and understandable.
    I like posts that fill in your knowledge gaps. This one is of the sort.

  • Karen

    December 21, 2021 at 2:49 AM Reply

    Hi Mandy, if I want to make this ahead, how do you suggest I store the two components and for how long? It looks great and excited to try it!

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      December 21, 2021 at 2:54 AM Reply

      Hi Karen, you could make both components a couple days ahead of time and stored separately in the fridge. Reheat the sauce before serving.

  • Hailey

    September 14, 2022 at 9:57 PM Reply

    I just saw this on Chinese Cooking Demystified, and I think I’m in love. This is so creative, and it looks so delicious and beautiful. I’m also crazy about the way it evokes the culinary exchange of the Silk Road. There were centuries where new ingredients came flooding into China, like flat bread and sesame and cumin. All those good old Northern standards. Not a lot of people in the west know about that, but when they learn, they have a hard time imagining Chinese food with out sesame! I think it’s really cool that this dish is in that same spirit, making it seem new and classical all at once.

    I hope to get a copy of your book! It sounds really interesting, and also delicious.

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