What do ghosts eat? It feels like a silly question to consider, but at the same time, deadly serious. Presenting such offerings to the dearly departed shows respect, and more importantly, our lasting love. Like living people, I’d imagine that ghosts have diverse tastes, unique to every individual spirit. Whatever might have brought them comfort during their lives would undoubtedly be the best gift. Perhaps it’s sort of a test to keep their memory alive; if you hold dear such comparatively trivial details, surely you could maintain a better picture of the person as a whole.
In any event, what you feed the deceased varies depending on their culture, though I’ve heard that particular dishes are more auspicious than others. For example, did you know that the Chinese originally set out soft tofu for spirits, since it was believed that ghosts have long lost their chins and jaws, making it difficult for them to chew hard or crunchy foods. If there’s anyone I’d trust with this practice, it’s them; tofu first appeared in China around 220 BCE. If that’s not a proven track record, I don’t know what is.
As a person with terrible teeth, I can relate. Besides, once our ancestors have had their fill, the living are meant to enjoy the leftovers, so we should consider making something that everyone would enjoy. That’s why mapo tofu bao are ideal for celebrating the Hungry Ghost Festival.
Also known as the Zhongyuan Festival in Taoism and the Yulanpen Festival in Buddhism, it’s essentially the Chinese version of Día de los Muertos, when family and friends who have left this world come back to visit. To treat our guests of honor, I’d like to suggest these fiery little snacks that are pungent enough to lift the spirits, no matter what state they’re in.
Soft cubes of tender tofu luxuriate in a spicy sea of black garlic, fermented bean paste, and plenty of mala Sichuan peppercorns. Wrapped in a pillowy shell of steamed white bread, each bite practically melts in your mouth, exploding into fireworks of flavor. I wish I could lay claim to such a brilliant culinary innovation, but I’m just as happy to share Chez Jorge‘s brilliant formula, already fine-tuned and perfected.
It takes some time and effort to prepare, but considering the fact that your guests of honor have been waiting all year to drop in, I think it’s worth your time. Besides, the ghosts are fairly generous when it comes to sharing; you’ll be grateful for all the extras when the party’s over.