Ma Po Tofu is a dish popular all over China, not just in Sichuan. The vegan version without ground pork goes by a different name but is just as tasty. The secret is to find the authentic Pixian Chili Bean Paste or “Doubanjiang”, which comes from the outskirts of a Sichuan city named Pixian. Some say Doubanjiang is the soul of Sichuan cooking, certainly it is a very special product. Sure, there are generic substitutes by the big name pre-made sauce makers, but it’s not the same. I will tell you how to find it, otherwise it is worth ordering by internet.
Very few authentic recipes or videos exist online. Inauthentic recipes clearly do not understand tofu and have extraneous ingredients. The most authentic ones are a bit more complicated than necessary, in my humble opinion. This recipe is my adapted formula for vegetarians and vegans including soy-based sausage instead of ground pork, but the recipe maintains authenticity. I will point out where you can improvise if you are missing certain ingredients or want to adjust. Surprisingly, the mysteries of Ma Po Tofu go away quickly when you examine at the ingredients. Even better, it takes me 20 minutes from the time I open the fridge to plating, so it’s a great quick dish. You may be even faster!
The sourcing is the hard part. Without being familiar, I spent nearly an hour scouring mysterious shelves at the largest Chinese market in Boston. I almost gave up but persistence paid off in taste! You need a good Chinese market, the bigger the better. On the other hand, cooking and prep is surprisingly simple, almost fool-proof! 20 minutes, even if you never made it before.
* Pixian Chili Bean Paste or “Doubanjiang” - Look for packets, not jars, below all the bottled chili sauces. The ingredients should be beans (fava or broad), chili, salt, rice and water, hopefully no preservatives. It is truly a thick paste and not a sauce at all.
* Fermented Black Beans or “Douchi”- Look near the dried beans, or near the sauces – it will come in a Quaker Rolled Oats type of cardboard cylinder with a metal pop-off lid.
* Chinese Cooking Wine - Choices are bewildering, but try to get a Jia Fan style from Shaoxing province. Mine is aged for 3 years and it has a smooth character, not unlike Sake. If you cannot find it, choose one that has no salt added from Shaoxing. There are 4 major styles from this province, and they range from dry to sweet, with more sugars and spirits added. Jia Fan is medium dry and suited for most purposes from veggies to seafood to even meats, or even just drinking! For people who don’t have high chili tolerance, Japanese Mirin could work instead, adding a touch of sweetness. But you would need real Mirin, not the fake ones with corn syrup, as it will burn. Real Mirin is quite expensive while real Jia Fan is 2 or 3 dollars for a whole 750mL bottle. The most expensive alternative? A sweetish Japanese Sake. Don’t buy cheap 2 dollar Chinese cooking wine with salt added. That stuff is salty rubbing alcohol. Plain white wine would be better. I did a hell of lot of turning around of bottles and reading of Chinese which I don’t understand in the least! at Kan Man Market in South Bay Boston, 3 year old Jia Fan is the best they have, trust me.
* Silken Tofu - Any local brand will do. Use about one cube per serving. I get the big 6 pack because this dish is addictive! Non-GMO of course is preferred.
* Arrowroot - or Corn Starch, Potato Starch, Kudzu Root, any thickener. Arrowroot has a higher tolerance against breaking down and has more “sheen” than other starches. It’s likely that wheat flour can work in a pinch.
* Lightlife “Gimme Lean” Soy Breakfast Sausage - Dry bulk TVP or Textured Vegetable Protein is okay but flavorless - soak in concentrated vegetable broth in that case. Fake ground beef, fake ground pork, they all will work. Of course, ground pork is in the original recipe.
* Garlic - Well you know what garlic is, I hope. I’ve been lazy lately and use freeze-dried garlic; it works fine. It is less potent than fresh of course. 1 to 3 cloves is fine as a rough guide.
* Ginger - I am not sure if authentic recipes use ginger or not. It may add another dimension or just get lost with all the other flavors. I have not used it yet. I would finely dice it as opposed to using my Japanese grater.
* Sesame Oil - Used to start the frying of pork, optional. Any vegetable oil will do. Good for you if you can detect sesame flavors after loading on all these powerful ingredients! If you read this recipe to the very end, you’ll find a good tip for the sesame oil, but used as a garnish mixed with Chili Oil.
* Vegetable Broth - I keep low-sodium bouillon cubes in stock at all times. If you use fake sausage, you may as well skip this, it’s quite flavored enough, but not if using TVP. With real pork, chicken broth is used. Using a half cup of water is not going to be a crime if you forget to pick it up.
* Chili Oil - The heat may be too much for some, but should be drizzled on top in plating for authenticity.
* Sichuan Peppercorn - also known as Prickly Ash, it is not a peppercorn at all and doesn’t crack open like whole black pepper. It has a literally numbing and menthol like flavor which is quite distinctive and necessary as a condiment, in my opinion. I have found ones in Chinese markets of not very good quality. I buy from gourmet western markets or spice specialists. Look for a deep pink or magenta hue. Toast or roast slightly in the wok before starting for best results and crush in a coffee mill.
* Dried “Facing Heaven” Pepper - sold as “Zhi Tian Jiao” or “Chao Tian Jiao”, it is very difficult to find. It is the signature chili of Sichuan. I have only found it already ground, which shortens shelf-life. It is mixed with Sichuan Peppercorn to make “Mala” or “numbing and spicy”, the base of many Sichuan dishes. In fact, with Mala and Pixian Bean Paste, one can make many Sichuan dishes, such as “Zhiu Jiu”, sometimes spelled “Gin Ju” - the fire-boiled fish fillets, the classic benchmark Sichuan dish. In our dish, the Facing Heaven seems like a luxury chili, but it would be a crime to omit it if you have Sichuan Peppercorns. In any case, this chili is milder than bird’s eye chili, around the level of a mild Jalapeno. It is very fruity compared to typical narrow-type dark red Chinese chili. It’s nice to have and a total score if you can find it whole. Send me some if you do.
* Scallions - Well, here is your token green vegetable, which adds color, but hardly much flavor. But I like to steam some baby bok choy as a side.
* Rice - It’s nice to break up bites of spicy Ma Po Tofu with some thankfully soothing rice! Setup the rice before prep begins.
Prep: About 5-10 minutes.
Prep here is simple. Cube your tofu and let it drain on the cutting board. Don’t worry about excess water. Grab a handful of the fermented black beans, more or less to your taste, and rinse them two or three times after letting them soak in cold water for a few minutes.
Take a small piece of your fake sausage and stick it in a wok with some sesame or vegetable oil. Don’t turn on the heat yet, more prep to come.
The Pixian paste, if it came in a packet, I recommend putting it in a glass jar for ease of use and refrigeration after. Stick a teaspoon in there and set it next to your stove. Also get the cooking wine out.
Chop up your scallions and crush and mince your garlic. Set aside the scallion for garnish and put the garlic next to the other ingredients by your wok.
Believe or not, the biggest pain is crushing the Sichuan Peppercorns. I’ve tried crushing with heavy pans, and chopping with big knives. Doesn’t work well. Stick them in a coffee mill, just a teaspoon is plenty. Mix in a equal amount of Facing Heaven Chili.
Finally, in a cup, mix half a teaspoon of Arrowroot and a couple of teaspoons of water. Don’t even mix yet, and don’t bother with a spoon.
Cooking: 10 minutes or less.
It is very easy and the only thing to worry about is adding too much stock or water. I will explain.
Start frying the fake sausage or what have you. If you have no “meat”, the next thing to add is the garlic and ginger, quickly followed by the Pixian Chili Bean Paste. I recommend about one teaspoon for each cube of tofu for wimps, one tablespoon for people who want “authentic”. Use medium heat, one notch higher than halfway on the burner control. Use a big metal cooking spoon to break apart the sausage. It will stick all over the place and to itself until it gets reasonably fried. Just use your fingers to scrape it off the spoon.
By now the Pixian Paste, garlic, and fake meat are glowing deep red and almost charring in the wok. No big whoop – it’s time to deglaze with the cooking wine. Just pour a good double shot in there straight from the bottle and drink a shot yourself, for quality control, ahem, and deglaze away. Throw in the fermented black beans in, and next, is the critical step of adding stock or water.
In the classic manner, the tofu is blanched separately prior to cooking. I could not reason why – until I figured on my own that the more tofu cooks, the more water it releases. So what I do now is skip blanching, or silly prep involving paper towels. I simply put less stock than logical, say a half or 3/4 cup per two cubes or two servings. It should come to about slightly above halfway up the side of tofu cubes. But we haven’t added tofu yet. So basically add about 2/3rds the amount of liquid you think you need in total, the tofu will provide more. Anyway, you can add more liquid later if necessary, just underestimate for now.
It is important to turn on your fan and step away from the wok when adding wine, water or stock. The fumes from the chili and resultant steam are quite tear inducing. It is basically homemade pepper spray – Sichuan-style. Fire in the hole!
Let your sauce cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Use this time to clean up, and quickly steam up some bok choy, check on your rice cooker, get out plates. After that, carefully add your tofu. Again one cube will easily be good for one person. Stir in very gently of course and let it cook. When is it done? When the water level starts creeping up on the tofu, that is the water coming out of the tofu as we discussed. (Now we understand tofu better, do we not?) About 3 minutes as a guideline.
Grab your cup of Arrowroot suspension. With your impeccably clean finger, stir the mix until you cannot feel starch on the bottom. (You cannot feel with a spoon.) Pour in slowly and mix gently, as it will thicken quickly. Potato and corn starch need a good 30 seconds to cook, or they break down after plating and the sauce gets runny again, which is very sad. Arrowroot does not have this property, it just works. Plus it’s shinier and more appealing. It’s magic!
Plating by itself, next to, or on top of rice is fine. Garnish with scallions, chili oil, and a mixture of Sichuan Peppercorn and Facing Heaven Chili Pepper. You can cut the chili oil with sesame oil if it’s too hot for you. Roasting the sichuan pepper in the wok (before you start cooking anything) is a nice way to release those essential oils. You can crush them in a coffee mill and mix it with Facing Heaven to get the freshest mala powder.
Enjoy this classic dish, de-mystified and slightly simplified for vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike.
The Japanese have a dish called “Mabo Tofu”. Can you guess where it’s from? It uses less Doubanjian, substitutes sake for cooking wine, and also subs “Tian Mian Jiang”, (sweet black bean paste) instead of whole fermented beans, finally, it adds soy sauce to make up for salt lost by less Doubanjian. It is not quite as fiery as the original but still largely canonical.
This is what we call, “Not so great Ma Po Tofu.” Travesties include strange additions of peas and carrots or heaven forbid, onions. Disappointingly, no Sichuan Peppercorn on top. Sometimes it’s simply thickened garlic chili sauce plus soy sauce which breaks down after a bit. A sad shadow of its origins, tis clearly better to attempt this at home rather than suffer bad renditions dining out. Otherwise excellent Chinese restaurants often fail at Ma Po Tofu. It is surprising but true. Tofu cooking for eastern chefs is the egg omelet test for western ones.
Emergency Ma Po Tofu
Even if you only had Doubanjian, Tofu, water and starch – it would still be delicious. Doubanjian is just that good.
Tips for lessoning the spicy heat:
You could follow the Japanese version, check out the “Cooking With The Dog” channel on YouTube for a FAR less complicated explanation than mine of this dish. Within the original recipe however, using less Doubanjian would help obviously. Because it has most of the salt – go heavy on the fermented black beans, or add a touch of salt. (I would not use soy sauce, as it will darken the color.) Sugar can help, but just a pinch, like you would with your tomato pasta sauces. Also, Mirin instead of Chinese cooking wine like I mentioned earlier. If you want to lessen the heat of the chili oil condiment, or simply extend it’s usefulness, you can cut it with sesame oil. In fact, you could mix say half a teaspoon of chili oil in a tablespoon of sesame oil. It would have a nice nuttiness while getting a bit of the heat across. You might as well cut the whole bottle of chili oil with a bottle or two of sesame oil if you can’t handle chili oil in general.
Ingredients NOT in this recipe:
Soy Sauce, Salt, Peas, Carrots, Onions, Firm Tofu. I don’t use Ginger, yet, as I am not quite sure if it’s authentic to do so. I can’t say I’ve tasted it distinctly in any version I’ve had in a restaurant, good or bad. Fuloon in Malden, MA may have the truest version I’ve had, complete with Sichuan Peppercorn.
This is a layman’s guide on how to make a ThinkPad X61 Tablet or regular X61 into a MacBook Air killing Hackintosh. First, a bit of a primer on why I ever went this route anyway.
I first built a “Hackintosh” Thinkpad some years ago when Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, was current. It was purely a novelty, I already had MacBooks and MacBook Pros and Mac Pros. Those days were rough, things such as DSDT patching and EFI hacks didn’t exist. It was all luck of the draw, either that downloaded, hacked Mac OS X installer worked or it didn’t. Modding a kext, the files that are low-level device driver software for various components such as wi-fi, bluetooth, and the display, were in their early days. Very few people knew enough about Mac OS X internals to make custom kext files, never mind bootstrap a generic PC or create a custom kernel (the core part of the Mac’s operating system.). But the idea caught on like wildfire, a few companies started selling whole systems even, and it hasn’t stopped since. For me, I couldn’t get enough things going so I shelved my little project, and those companies got shut down by Apple’s legal department a long time ago.
When 10.6, Snow Leopard, came around, things were much different. “Vanilla” kernels were the rage, and EFI (It is somewhat analogous to a PC’s BIOS, but it is software on the hard drive, as opposed to firmware of the PC itself.) exploits opened a wider range of opportunities. Then DSDT hacking came about and basically it is impossible *not* to be able to turn just about any standard Intel Core 2 Duo or better machine into a Hackintosh. I have that Thinkpad X61s running Snow Leopard beautifully and I use it everyday. I built it in 2008 to be a MacBook Air killer, and it still delivers. With an SSD (Solid State Drive), it blew away my 15” MacBook Pro even, I just sold it after that, there was no point in having a real Mac when I could make a 300 dollar computer, with another 300 bucks invested in SSD, faster and more functional than any Apple Computer. SD card reader? Check. Verizon WWAN card? Check. Fingerprint reader? It all works, even Apple’s own FireWire standard. Even today in 2012, Apple’s Macs do not have WWAN or fingerprint readers. They are very useful things. My X61s weighs 3 and a half pounds with an 8-cell battery. When parts break, I buy them on eBay for a few dollars from China. It’s the cheapest best computer I’ve ever ran.
Recently I had a ThinkPad X61 Tablet, which is similar in architecture. laying around with no use. I got it for two reasons, foremost the screen. It is a redonkulous 1400x1050 pixels in a 4:3 ratio 12” LCD. Plus it’s a tablet! So yes, it swivels and it has a stylus. (Yes, it works in Mac OS X Lion.) It’s like a giant high-resolution iPad, except it’s real computer. It addressed the one weakness of the X61s, a low resolution screen. (The X61s has a normal 12” 1024x768 screen, and it’s pretty low quality.) I quickly got used to 1024x768, but I have plenty of big monitors at home to plug into when I need it. But having 1400x1050 in the same 12” was too hard to resist. It’s slightly longer and heavier than the 3.5 pound X61s, but at around 4 pounds, definitely on better than any MacBook Pro, even the 13” model, which has a really crummy 1280x800 screen, the worst screen in the whole lineup. It’s not MacBook Air light, but it’s on the edge of sub-compact notebook.
So as it turned out, I really needed a Mac OS X 10.7 Lion machine to run Xcode 4 so I could start making iPhone apps, and I just couldn’t risk redoing my X61s. It was way too hard to get setup to wipe it out. I decided to build out the X61 Tablet with Lion. Man, that was wicked hard. But I’m typing on it now and I love it. The screen is sick, it has about the same number of pixels as a low-end *17”* MacBook Pro. The SSD makes it practically faster too. SSD is a game changer. Don’t buy a new computer, just buy an SSD. It is night and day. It is not even close to the same experience as a computer with traditional hard drive. Literally everything is faster, and most things are near instant. Apple finally has it right with the 11’ and 13” MacBook Air models of 2011, but they are artificially crippled by 4 gigs of RAM. That sucks. Too bad, because they are very affordable. The MacBook Pro line is totally 2000’s in my opinion. The 13” one is vastly inferior to the 13” Air in every way, especially display, except they can take 8 Gigs of RAM. Something has to give, and it’s likely the two lines will kind of meld or attain equilibrium this year. It has to. This is all because the 2008 MacBook Air was a $4000 luxury toy, now it’s the entry level machine. Weird.
Anyway, this is how to do it. Forget endless googling, I’ve done it all and a gazillion reboots.
The first things are physical. Which X61 Tablet? There are scads of different “types” in Lenovo parlance. Mine is a Type 7762-AS1. It doesn’t really matter, 99% of them have 1.6 Ghz Core2Duo CPUs, a few had 1.8’s. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the display. They were “Multiview” and “Superview” and just normal ones. The XGA screens are only 1024x768 pixels. Forget it, might as well get a non-Tablet X61 or X61s, they are lighter and smaller. Yes, you want what I got, a SXGA+, a whopping 1400x1050 pixels of real estate. It really is like have a 19” LCD panel in your laptop. The pixel density is something like 166 pixels per square inch, which is a hell of a lot more than the standard 96 DPI, but this is no ordinary hackintosh. ;) All SXGA+ models “Superview” have a stylus for tablet purposes. It does not work with your finger, sorry. Some of the XGA ones do work (badly) with your finger. They are called “Multiview”. Forget it, this isn’t an iPad. Just get the 1400x1050 screen. Mine doesn’t have Bluetooth surprisingly and that blows. But I can buy it on eBay for 30 bucks with the wiring harness, or buy a 10 dollar USB one. Later, later.
Ok, most professional Lenovo’s come with docking stations or docks. They are nice, Lenovo always made the best ones. Get it, because you’ll occasionally need a DVD drive. Plus it is sweet to dock and have your keyboard, mouse and external monitor all light up instantly. The thing is called “Ultrabase X6” and they are expensive by themselves. You can buy a decent ThinkPad X61 Tablet with the Ultrabase X6 for 300 to 400 bucks I imagine, on eBay. Don’t buy it from a used dealer. Wait for a private seller who has all the manuals, disks, etc. Make *sure* it’s 1400x1050. Assume the battery is shot. They are a little pricey, but you can save money by choosing a good third-party make, like AGPtek. That’s what I have now. The life isn’t great, but other than building your own battery (That is another topic, a dangerous topic.) that’s as good as it gets without paying Lenovo prices, which are stupid expensive. An AGPtek one should be around 75 bucks.
Wifi. You need a new wifi card, because the standard Lenovo one, actually it’s an Intel part, just won’t work in Mac OS X. So go on eBay and search “Lenovo Atheros AR5008”. Should be 30 bucks. No big whoop. You can buy a non-Lenovo Atheros AR5008, but it won’t work unless you change your BIOS on the ThinkPad, more on that later. Anyway, just get a Lenovo one, it’s no big whoop.
RAM. Well, if the bastard was cheap, the machine has 2 Gigs of RAM. Don’t buy that one! Buy one with 4 Gigs, but if you don’t, yes, buy (2) 2 GB DDR2 PC2-5300 SO-DIMMS.
SSD. You most definitely want to get a nice 120 GB or bigger SSD. 200 bucks, are you kidding? No. Absolutely do not even bother reading the rest of this if you don’t get an SSD. I’m using a OCZ Vertex 2, which is a good fit. It’s a “Sandforce” controller, it goes only to SATA-2 (SATA-3 is current.), so this is a good mid-performance model at the right price. SSD’s can die suddenly though, believe it or not, so always backup. There is no such thing as a fail-proof hard drive, not even an SSD. The other choice I would go with is OWC Electra 6G, or their Mercury Extreme Pro 6G, if you want to spend a little more money. OWC is very Mac-centric. They do over-provisioning, which was was a sort of workaround for Apple’s lack of TRIM support, more on that later.
USB keyboard and mouse, a Mac running 10.6.6 or higher and a USB case for the SSD. You’ll need these thing just temporarily, to get your ThinkPad going. A 2.5” SATA USB case is nice to have, plus you can use it later for Time Machine backups. They are like 6-7 bucks at Micro Center. Just get one. Okay, well, you need a Phillips double zero, well maybe a triple zero (00 and 000) screwdriver. It’s like 2 bucks at Micro Center, stop complaining. Hell you can get a kit of 40 made in Taiwan, for 9 bucks. I use German Wiha ones, but whatever, I like nice tools. Just don’t buy shiny ones made in China. The chrome flakes off and the bit is junk after one use.
Lastly, you need Mac OS X Lion, preferably bought from the Mac App Store on the Apple you are borrowing. Buy it, download it, but don’t install it. In fact make a backup copy of it on a flash drive. This is better than buying the USB installer from Apple because it’s the latest version, which at the time of this writing is 10.7.3.
Download my software bundle here on that Mac you are borrowing:
It is a zip file of 4 zip files. I’ll explain what to do with them.
- Middleton BIOS X61 Tablet.zip
- current SLE March 6, 2012.zip
- Post-install X61T.zip
I recommend putting them on a USB stick because you’ll be switching computers.
Before you blow away Windows on your ThinkPad X61 you will probably want to run the Middleton BIOS hack first. It replaces the BIOS. You know that command line looking gibberish before windows comes up? Well it’s important stuff, it tells the operating system what kind of hardware the PC has. It’s what we call an “abstraction layer”, something that is sandwiched between two very different things so they can talk to each other. In this case, software and hardware. On the Mac and Windows to some extant, there are actually more abstraction layers, such as EFI, SMC, ACPI.
Anyway, why this hacked BIOS? As it turns out the X61 line has a curious thing about the hard drive sub-system, it runs in SATA-1 or just SATA, not SATA-2, even though the hardware is capable of it. As you can imagine, it limits the speed of hard drives in there, especially if you have an SSD. So if you have an SSD, you really need to do this. The instructions are pretty clear but there are two ways of doing it. One is to run the included exe file in Windows. It’s pretty damn easy. The other way is to burn the included ISO file to a blank CD, boot off it, and run the BIOS flash that way. By the way, some hacker just made this BIOS by himself. If you need a BIOS for another X61 machine, such as the non-Tablet or X61s, google “Middleton BIOS” and it will come right up. Beautiful.
Ok, you will need to turn off your machine and install the wifi card. It’s not that hard, don’t even google it. Just remove the battery, unscrew all the bottom screws you can find, turn it over, lift the lid and carefully lift the palm rest area and keyboard up. You’ll see one Mini PCI-E cards under the right side of the palm rest area. The other slot is empty unless you have a special order ThinkPad with Verizon WWAN. Carefully disconnect the antennas, undo the two screws, pop it out, and you might find a third one sitting in a plastic sleeve under it. Why? Well the wifi card you are ripping out is only 802.11G. The new one is N! Guess what, real N cards use 3 antennas. So pop the new one in, put the antennas in the same order, the new one goes in the middle if you have it. Put the machine back together. Don’t bollocks it up. Use a egg crate container to hold screws, they are kind of handy. Magnetizing your screwdrivers really really help.
Good job! Are you ready to Hackintosh? Plug the fancy SSD into the USB case, and hook it up to that borrowed Mac. Open Disk Utility and erase the sucker. Call it anything you want, I like “Hackintosh SSD”. Open the Install Mac OS Lion app in the /Applications folder and carefully install it on the SSD, not the hard drive of the system you are running!! Doh! It’s not really clear on how to switch the target of the install, but just click the hard drive icon and it will slide a new screen where you can choose the target drive.
When the installer finishes, you will be asked to reboot. Let it do it’s thing. It then *actually* installs (*headshake*) and then it asks you for you name, login name, password, etc. Choose wisely. If you want to copy stuff from an old Mac, choose the same names.
By the way, there are fancy ways to get the PC booted under the installer and get the whole shooting match going without another Mac, but it’s just not worth it. Besides it’s wicked slow. This way is crash-proof and faster. Your choice.
Now it’s really time to get going. We are going to run stuff in the “ThinkPad X61 Tablet post-install” zip file, so get that ready, along with the “Extra” zip and and the “current SLE March 6, 2012” zip files. You can unzip them all now.
In “Post-install X61T” run “MultiBeast 4.2.1.pkg”. This is a wonderful post-install by http://tonymacx86.com/ These are some of the best people on the bleeding edge of Hackintoshes. They are running 10.8 Mountain Lion systems, for man sakes. I shouldn’t even be distributing this installer, but I wanted a soup to nuts kind of deal for normal people. Please forgive me Tony!
There are a LOT of options for MultiBeast, it’s supposed to be a one-shot deal for many different types of PCs. But we are picking just one and it’s “UserDSDT Install”. It will install the very basic things to get a Hackintosh going. Number one is Chimera, which is a boot manager and EFI firmware hack to get the PC bootstrapped. One of the most difficult challenges in Hackintosh originally was getting around this EFI problem. EFI is largely a replacement for BIOS on Mac and as I said, it’s the first abstraction layer that gets the machine booted in software. In fact, the very first prototype Intel Macs didn’t have EFI, they had normal BIOS. But EFI was a much more dynamic extensible system and after 30 years of BIOS, fine! But since 99% of PC’s still use BIOS, how did we do this? Well, as it turns out, on every Mac, the first 200 megs is a special reserved area for guess what? EFI. It’s quite the coincidence since the hard drive format has nothing to do with EFI, but Apple has to do this because the hard drive format they use, GUID, says that you must set aside 200 Megs for an EFI partition. Since GUID is open-source “UserDSDT Install” also installs a couple of kexts so the thing can basically boot, but never mind that for now, we are going to replace them anyway.
One other thing UserDSDT Install does is make an “Extra” folder on the root level of your SSD. So you should see:
The “Extra” zip is a whole replacement for the entire “Extra” folder. Unzip “Extra.zip”, and replace everything in /Extra with my versions. What in here?
DSDT.aml is yet another hardware abstraction layer. It is more complicated than BIOS or EFI. It is like, for example, what registers and PCI IRQs to use for the Ethernet controller. There are hundreds of DSDT hacks for thousands of different PC components and it is way too much time to mess around with. I just don’t have time to do it. I grabbed the best pre-made one I could find on forums, but more advanced full-time Hackintosh guys will hack their own custom ones. This one here is pretty damn good for the X61 Tablet, it enables the tablet feature on Mac OS X for one thing. org.chameleon.Boot.plist and smbios.plist are a bunch of strings that inform Mac OS X what kind of Mac the operating system is dealing with. In our case, we are lying and saying it’s a MacBook Pro 17” model. No big whoop. Lion is a pain because you didn’t really have to fill all this stuff out when hackintoshing in Snow Leopard and Leopard, now you really do or it gets very unhappy.
Time to shutdown your borrowed Mac. We just have to get the kexts installed and do some post-install installs and you’ll have a pretty sweet Mac for under 600 bucks. By the way, when you shutdown here, the Mac just generally hangs. Just force turn it off, hold the power key for 4 seconds, no big whoop. Disconnect the drive and take it out of the USB case. While you are doing that, boot up the Mac you just borrowed and make sure you let it boot because my girlfriend freaked out when she did just that and her desktop said “You Mac just froze, you wanna report to Apple?” She was totally convinced it was slower which is ridiculous. Just make sure you boot it once, open System Preferences, click Startup Disk and reselect the original drive as the boot drive. It will make booting faster, since it’s still looking for the SSD that’s no longer there. Shut it down after, so it “remembers” that setting. Jeez, she gave me bloody hell for that, she doesn’t believe a word I say about computers ironically.
So you have to rip out the old drive on the Thinkpad and it’s just one screw believe it or not. Well, one to take it out, then there are four screws for the sled after you take the rubber grommets off. No big whoop. Just make a mental note of the orientation of the drive, you don’t want to stick it in there backwards or upside down, doh.
Well, go for it, press the power button. It’s a beautiful moment to cherish your own Mac booting all by itself. Baby grown up. Now put that aside because we got work to do.
You *should* get to the desktop. The keyboard and mouse should *not* work. If you don’t make it to the desktop, well, you are just going to have to re-read this more carefully and start over.
The keyboard and mouse do not work because they are PS2 style unbelievably, which went out of style in like the year 2000. So we need to plug in a USB keyboard and mouse for a moment. So do that.
It’s time for the kext installfest. In the “current SLE March 6, 2012” zip file, there are a list of 18 kexts. They all need to be properly installed in a special folder on the Hackintosh, /System/Library/Extensions, hence SLE. In the “Post-install X61t” zip, there is a utility, KextBeast, which is again by the good folks at http://tonymacx86.com/. Install on the ThinkPad.
To actually use KextBeast, you simply drag the kexts out of “current SLE March 6, 2012” onto your desktop. Then launch KextBeast and hit install, authenticate, and that’s it! You Hackintosh is basically done after a reboot. Exciting! What KextBeast actually does is grab any kext lying on the desktop, puts them in S/L/E with the proper permissions.
After you boot, you should see your glorious 1400x1050 in full res glory, the keyboard and track button should work (Give it a week to get used to the TrackPoint or “UltraNav” or whatever Lenovo calls it. You’ll get used to it.) Don’t be a sissy and use a mouse. If you must, buy the Magic Trackpad from Apple even it’s pricey. It will enable all those useless finger gestures that really only make sense on an iPad. It doesn’t recognize THE finger, so eff that I say.
We can add some polish to our project, and that’s why I included the following in “Post-install X61T” zip.
- iStat Menus Installer.app
- MultiBeast 4.2.1.pkg
- Smart Scroll Installer 3.9.3.app
- tabletmagic settings.rtf
The com.apple plist doesn’t really do anything. It was supposed to disable encrypted virtual memory and help my sleep problems, but it didn’t work. You can put it in /Library/Preferences/ but don’t even bother unless you want to work on the sleep problem.
cpu-x is a cool little app to show you if the CPU is running SpeedStep, which varies the processor speed to save energy and therefore battery. In our case, it doesn’t work. Oh well. You can google and try to solve it, but you risk making your system unbootable, etc. Wait till you get good at this stuff before that.
iStat Menus Installer.app is a menubar item widget and preference pane for geeks who want to know fan speed, CPU temps, network speed, etc. It’s for geeks. The FakeSMC kext I gave you is especially hacked for this. I like to know my CPU temps and fan speeds, because Hackintoshes run hot often, if the power management is not done right in DSDT or with custom kexts. This machine runs like a well-oiled sewing machine, 58 degrees C usually and the fan speed is zero. It’s dead quiet, eerily quiet since SSD doesn’t make noise.
KeyboardRemap4MacBook takes care a bad key. The ~ key or ` key next the 1 is mapped wrong, it types some weird symbol that stand for “section”. So install it, open it in System Preferences and scroll way the hell down to “For International English Keyboard” and click the triangle and finally click “Section() to Backquote(`)” Jeez, what a pain!
MenuCracker.menu is actually for iStat2. Lion doesn’t allow third-party widgets anymore, so this changes it back the way it used to be, the right way, in Snow Leopard and before, so you can have cool menubar widgets like iStat2.
Smart Scroll Installer 3.9.3 is not quite so “must have” but it adds quite a bit of functionality to your otherwise pretty basic TrackPoint. “Auto-Scroll” is the feature I like.
tabletmagic settings.rtf TabletMagic2b18.dmg enable your tablet and tablet digitizer. To be honest, mine loses it’s tablet calibration like every 2 presses, so it’s kind of worthless. It’s so disappointing but true. Whatever you do, DO NOT CLICK the “Enable Digitizer” button under the “TabletPC” tab section of TabletMagic. You will trash the whole system. I did that and had to start from scratch what a pain. All you have to do is click the “enabled” checkbox on top and “Launch at Startup” under the “Extras” tab if you want to. Then you can click “Enable Ink” and you have an “Ink” Preference Pane. Sadly, Ink is damn useless. Windows Tablet Edition is a million times better. Ironic since Apple pioneered handwriting recognition with the Newton. Le sigh.
TRIM-SUPPORT-SSD, this document is important. If you bought an OWC SSD, don’t do it, it will actually slow down the OWC SSD. (They use over-provisioning instead.) I use it on my OCZ Vertex 2. You can check the result by open System Profiler.
TrueSuite_22.214.171.124.dmg well this is the piece de la resistance. It enables the fingerprint reader, and it is damn cool. After years of pshawing them on PC’s, I really like it. It logs me into the Hackintosh itself, and in Lion, it even logs me into websites in Chrome and Safari. Just brilliant and all your Apple fanboi and fangrl friends will twinge with just a hint of “Wah, why don’t I have that!”. Well, they aren’t cool enough to build their own Mac and they are Apple tools.
That’s it. I cannot get sleep working for the life of me and it maybe due to DSDT or maybe it’s the firmware on my OCZ, I just don’t know. I’m tired of hacking this thing. I’m tired of writing this blog post. All I know if you should unclick sleep for the hard drive in Energy Saver since it is an SSD, and you should type this in Terminal, found in your Utilities folder. (To remove the sleep image file.)
sudo rm -rf /var/vm/sleepimage
To disable safe sleep mode: sudo pmset hibernatemode 0
Sleep images aren’t really work much in the days of laptops and SSD. I would love to get sleep going but gotta pick your battles. Maybe you can be the one to figure it out. Luckily Lion has that handle “reopen windows on login” feature. So I just shutdown now. This thing boots so fast anyway.
The SD card slot works, sort of, if you boot with a card in, if you don’t it sometimes freezes the keyboard and mouse. Lion is just a lot harder to hackintosh than Snow Leopard, because this works perfect on other X61 running 10.6. Guess we’ll have to wait for a new kext from voodoolabs. The PC card slot or PCMCIA slot does not work, who cares? The FireWire port is the only thing I’m not quite sure about, last time I checked, it was spewing GUID = 00000000 errors in Console, so some sort of plist fix might be in order. If you solve it, let me know. For now, I just disabled FireWire in the BIOS of the ThinkPad, which is accessed by pressing F1 and Esc repeatedly during power-on. (Why both keys? Because I’m not sure which one and it doesn’t matter.)
This dish was a crazy experiment of mine that turned out well. It’s a dramatic but simple departure from White Clam Sauce Pasta, using Unsweetened Powdered Cocoa. The technique is funny too, since I’m frying the Clams and serving them on top of the pasta, instead of just boiling them with the juice of the clams. It is a bit messy since it requires 2 pots, a fry pan, 2 colanders and a big mixing bowl. But if you want a weird pasta dish to impress, this might work. I always want to make clam sauce to not have rubbery clams. So separating the clams from broth always made sense, but judging just how much to boil is tricky. Too little, it’s like gross warm ceviche. Too long, rubber. Last time I actually quickly sauteed the clams with the onions right away! The dry fried clams were good, I simply reduced the clam juice in another pot with some wine and mixed everything together. So deep-frying has to be even better no?
Yesterday I went to a Chocolate Restaurant, Max Brenner Boston, so I had this nutjob idea to make cocoa flavored something today. This is what I came up with. Believe me, you aren’t going to see this on a restaurant menu soon.
A pound to a pound and half of Freshly Shucked Clams in Juice (Frozen okay)
Handful of parsley
White Wine, optional
Bay Leaf, Thyme, Black Pepper
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Flour mix for dredging Clams:
Cup of Flour
Nutmeg, Sesame Seeds, Hot Pepper
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Powdered Raw Cocoa
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 tablespoon Sugar
1/3 of a Pound of Dried Pasta per serving
Lemon Juice, Pinenuts, Parsley, Parmesan
The first order of business is to setup the Clams. First if they are frozen, defrost in the fridge overnight. Don’t cheat and try to warm them up in hot water. It doesn’t work. If you forgot, well, sorry, come back tomorrow. Now that it’s tomorrow, sieve off the Clam Juice and save it. I was drinking beer so I poured some on top of the clams after they were drained, to get more “juice” and perhaps tenderize them. What do I know about food chemistry? Nothing. I did give them a bit of a squeeze however, which is so scientifically proven to tenderize everything.
The flour mix is kind of your taste, but basically it’s a fried clam batter with lots of cocoa powder, a touch of sugar to get the cocoa flavor out and enhance the clam sweetness, some spices such as nutmeg and sesame seeds to add more dimension, and hot pepper to give a top note. (I used Urfa Turkish pepper, very smoky.) So my mix is kind of Mexican Mole in a flour batter. I would not put pepita seeds or nuts in there, they will just burn. Just dredge them and leave them alone for now. Do make the seasoning kind of strong, as it’s just a dusting and you won’t taste “all of it” as you eat the clams. I suppose you could double-dredge with egg or condensed milk, but I don’t think it’s necessary for this dish.
Time to make sauce. Start the saute with butter and onions, then garlic, whisk some of the flour mix actually to start making a roux. Deglaze with you finest White Wine or in my case beer and dump the clam juice in. Whisk it up and add your finely chopped parsley, leaving some for garnish. What I do is chop very very fine, but I don’t worry about the big pieces on the sides not getting chopped finely. I use those for garnish and save myself the work, ha ha. Sometimes cutting smart is not worrying so much that you are chopping every little thing. So let the sauce simmer gently while you…
Start boiling water for Pasta. It is not necessary to have a roiling boil for pasta. Lately, I don’t even salt the water or use gallons of it. It’s been proven, little or a lot of water, high heat or medium heat, it simply doesn’t matter. Trust me, I did it the old fashioned way for years, and I’m not sad that I don’t have keep blowing foam down that’s spilling over and driving up my utility bills. Ok, once you got your linguine in there and stirred a bit…
Let’s fry up some Clams sucka. We got a skillet on med-high heat, about a half-inch thick layer of oil, don’t have to totally cover the clams completely. Don’t smoke the oil, but make sure it’s going to fry by flicking some flour in there and make sure it bubbles. The clams shouldn’t take that long, a few minutes tops. If you like, put them on a wire rack and keep warm in oven so they stay crisp. Actually I broiled mine quickly before plating.
The Pasta and Sauce should finish about the same time. Add heavy cream to thicken the sauce. Drain your pasta. That ole’ trick about saving pasta water to thicken your sauce? Eh, forget it, guess you didn’t make the sauce right. Just dump the pasta in the colander and finish the sauce. We’ll dump both in a giant mixing bowl so the hot pots don’t keep cooking everything. Once we have it in, and mixed, add the parmesan cheese, (Which will thicken, thank you very much.) save some for garnish too. Mix everything, and let’s plate.
How I plate spaghetti or linguine is simple but adds a touch of elegance. Grab a serving worth of pasta, much as possible basically with a pair of tongs. Lift straight up and hold the tongs perfectly upright, north to south. Actually this might be easier if you hold the tongs “backwards” in your dominant hand. Now, with your other hand, grab a plate or big shallow bowl, and hold that underneath on the bottom with your whole hand. Lower the pasta in, and slowly ease up pressure on the tongs, and slowly SPIN THE PLATE at the same time. The pasta mass forms a sort of cone, pyramid shape I guess, it certainly looks intentional. Garnishes around the pasta will look nicer too. I suppose if are not so coordinated, spinning the plate on a counter while you lower in the pasta works too. However, if I was a line cook making 100 pasta plates a night, I would find this too slow. But we are not line cooks, phew.
Okay, that was way too long to explain a stupid plating trick of my own accord. Grab some of those Cocoa Fried Clams and plate them over the pasta. Don’t worry if they fall around your pasta, who cares, this isn’t Il Cantore. Garnish happily with Parmesan, Pinenuts, and Parsley, varying over and around the plate till it looks “balanced”. Finally a good squeeze of Lemon Juice and you are done! The kitchen will be a disaster but it actually does not take long to make this dish. 40 minutes I’d say.
The taste of this dish isn’t bizarre quite honestly. Chocolate is quite savory when you think about it, and quite bitter without sugar. I could imagine almond & cocoa flavored risotto served with orange zest & cocoa dusted scallops right now actually.