What Does Mapo Tofu Taste Like?
Mapo Tofu is a classic Szechuan dish that features tofu covered in spices and minced meat. It pairs extremely well with rice, and may even be necessary with how spicy it can get.
The name literally translates to “pockmarked old lady tofu”, inspired by the old lady that made this dish. The more you know!
It has now become a staple in Chinese restaurants, with many ordering it for takeout. However, did you know how easy it can be to make it at home?
Chinese Mapo Tofu from Scratch
Recently, my colleague asked me for my Mapo Tofu/麻婆豆腐 recipe. He has just gotten into cooking and wanted to try making it at home.
I went through the recipe with him in great length. But he ditched the idea of making the tofu from scratch.
It was too complicated and troublesome, he said. He bought a packet of instant Mapo Tofu mix instead.
How Hard is it to Make?
Is Mapo Tofu/麻婆豆腐 so hard to make at home? Does the long list of ingredients appear intimidating to a novice home cook? I asked myself. The answer is–unfortunately–yes.
Authentic Mapo Tofu
I learned my Mapo Tofu recipe from a Sichuan friend, the birthplace of this famed Chinese recipe. My friend’s mother attended the Sichuan Culinary Institute at Chengdu, so this Mapo Tofu recipe is as authentic as it can be. The Mapo Tofu recipe is not for the faint-hearted, it’s lip-smackingly spicy and downright incendiary (think Angelina Jolie’s lips after eating this!)
BEE-STUNG SWOLLEN LIPS ARE IN, but consider yourself warned. ;)
What Dishes to Serve with this Recipe?
This meal is best served with steamed rice.
For a wholesome meal and easy weeknight dinner, I recommend the following recipes.
Menu and Meal Ideas
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Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Mapo Tofu - the best Chinese tofu dish. Learn how to make it with this super easy and delicious recipe!
- 1 block silken tofu 19 oz box
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 3 tablespoons Sichuan spicy bean paste 辣豆瓣酱
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 3 tablespoons chili oil
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns roasted and ground to powder
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fermented black beans rinsed and pounded
- 2 stalks of leeks or scallions chopped into 1 or 2-inch length
- 2 gloves garlic chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- Salt to taste
Cut the tofu into small pieces, drain the water from the tofu and set aside. Heat up a wok and pour in the cooking oil and chili oil. Add the chopped garlic, ground pork, spicy bean paste and stir-fry until the pork is half-done. Then add in chili powder, soy sauce, fermented black beans and stir-fry until aromatic. Add in the tofu and water; stir gently to blend the tofu (don't break them) well with the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer for about 3-5 mins or until the sauce thickens. Add in the roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder and chopped scallions. Gently stir and blend well. Dish out and serve hot.
To tone down the numbing spiciness of this dish, use less roasted sichuan peppercorn powder, chili powder, and chili oil. Adjust them to fit your palate. Mo Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐) literally means "Pock-Marked Old Lady Tofu" (I know!). You can read about the origin of this dish here. The Ma Po Tofu served at Chinese restaurants in the US has been adapted to appeal to local taste--the level of numbing spiciness is largely toned down.