A Mapo Tofu a day keeps the doctor away!
Hello! Hope you are all set because, today, we play hardball. We will introduce you to one of the most famous Chinese dishes worldwide: your majesty, Mapo Tofu (Má pó dòufu 麻婆豆腐)!
This delicious dish is one of those we, at Dezhuang, can’t imagine getting sick of. Place a bit of it over a bowl of rice and boom! That pleasant pungent, spicy, numbing, fresh and tender flavor let all problems go away!
Yes, we know. We have already talked about Mapo tofu and its vegan version. But this delicacy’s taste is so powerful and sharp that we couldn’t leave you without knowing its authentic recipe!
But before we start messing up our kitchens, let’s try to understand a little more about this delicious dish.
Who is Mapo?
Mapo tofu is one of the most popular Chinese recipes abroad and it is, undoubtedly, one of the signature dishes of Sichuan cuisine. It enjoys great popularity in China and in many western countries due to its surprisingly intense flavors deriving from the combination of tender and minced meat with a spicy and oily sauce based on Dòubànjiang 豆瓣酱 (fermented broad bean and chili paste) and Dòuchǐ 豆豉 (fermented black soybeans). Sichuan Mala peppercorns and chili, of course, contribute to this dish’s rare fragrance and flavor.
Anyway, all the great foods come with a story. And that is surely true for Mapo Tofu. Do you know where Mapo Tofu got this name from? Looking at the Chinese name, it seems that it is like a tofu made by Mapo or with Mapo flavour. Who or what is Mapo, though?
The word ‘’Mapo’’comes from a nickname. It was conferred on Mrs Chen, who, with her husband, used to run a small eatery nearby Wanfu Bridge, in the northern part of Chengdu, Sichuan, during the Qing Dynasty, precisely in 1862. At that time, oil porters crossing the bridge were used to eat in Chen couple’s restaurant, the best option for a cheap and warm meal. Thus, Mrs Chen, was used to cook its tasty tofu to which she added meat to satisfy workers’ hunger and which day by day acquired an ever-growing reputation. Unpleasantly, since the wifey had a pock-marked face, her tofu was named Mapo, with ‘’má’’ meaning pock (麻子mazi) and ‘’pó’’ meaning elderly woman (婆婆 pópó). Not very gentle from the oil porters! Still, Mrs Chen had definitely nailed it and today her tofu is still a Chinese food staple, spread nationwide. Imagine that Chengdu Records, published in 1909, shows that the Chen couple changed their restaurant’s initial name, Chen Xinsheng, to Chen Mapo Tofu, which was then listed as one of the 23 most famous restaurants in Chengdu during the late Qing.
Ok, now that we all know who we should thank for having created this wonderful dish, let’s see how we need to cook it!
- Tofu (500 g)
- Minced Pork (60 g)
- Salt (2g)
- Doubanjiang spicy bean paste (30g)
- Fermented black soybeans (4g)
- Light soy sauce (2g)
- Dark soy sauce (2g)
- Chicken bouillon powder (1g)
- Grounded Sichuan Peppercorns (green) (6g)
- Ground White Pepper (1.5g)
- Chili flakes/powder (4g)
- Sugar (2g)
- Starch (20g)
- Garlic (15g)
- Ginger (15g)
- Shallot (10g)
- Sichuan dried chili (4g)
- Green Sichuan peppercorns (4g)
- Sesame oil (1g)
- Vegetable oil
Tips for cooking:
- Mapo tofu is a stir-fry dish cooked at a very high temperature. Hence, prepare all your ingredients before cooking so that you can get the texture and flavor right.
- Both soft and firm tofu are fine. Soft tofu has more flavor, firm tofu has a better texture. So, choose the one you prefer!
- Rinse or soak the tofu cubes in boiling water with a little bit of salt will help tofu remain tenderer and stronger and avoid it to break into pieces.
- Using traditionally chopped chili flakes (刀口辣椒) is a must for the Mapo tofu, helping it to remain spicy but not dry, rough but not bitter. To do so, you should roast the chili peppers (辣椒) and Green Sichuan peppercorns (花椒) and grind them manually to release maximum flavor and obtain your numbing spicy mix. If you cannot make this, use some good chilli flakes/powder and add some extra Sichuan peppercorns to your recipe.
- During the braising process, use a slow fire to cook your tofu. In so doing, it will retain the flavor of the dressing much better!
- Adding the starchy water three times is the key to obtaining a perfect sauce and letting the tofu absorb it perfectly.
Prepare the ingredients
- Cut tofu into square cubes of about 3cm in diameter and 3cm in width
- Bring a large amount of water to a boil and then add a pinch of salt. When the temperature reaches about 100 degrees Celsius, put the tofu and cook for 30 seconds. Then take it out, drain it and put it aside or just keep it soaked into the water.
- Chop the garlic and put it into a little bowl
- Chop the ginger, and the shallot and mix them up with the minced garlic.
- Add Sichuan dried chili and peppercorns and keep everything aside.
For the water starch
-mix 20 grams of cornstarch with 60 grams of water in a small bowl to make the starchy water
OK, ready? Let’s cook!
- Get a wok seasoned with 2 tablespoons of oil and heat it up to 130 degrees. Add the minced pork and let it fry for 3 minutes until crispy. Then add 0.5 g of Szechuan ground pepper (花椒粉), 0.5 g of ground Sichuan peppercorns (胡椒粉), 0.5 g of ground white pepper（胡椒粉), 2 g of soy sauce and 2 g of dark soy sauce and stir fry all the ingredients for 15 seconds. Then add 1g of sesame oil. Set the beef aside and leave the oil in.
- Add 2 g of peanut oil in the wok, heat it up to 120 degrees and place all the ingredients you prepared earlier (garlic, ginger, shallots, dried chili and Sichuan peppercorns). Fry them for 30 seconds. Now place gently 30g of doubanjiang chili paste, 4 g of fermented black soybeans, 4 g of chili powder/flakes and fry it for 20 seconds. Add 100 g of water and let it continue simmering until the temperature in the pot reaches 98 degrees. Place tofu in and add 1 g of chicken bouillon powder, 1 g of ground white pepper, 2 g of grounded Sichuan peppercorns, 2 g of sugar and add 2/4 of the meat. Let it slowly simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- During the simmering process, add 1/3 of the water starch to the pot, cook for 30 seconds and remove from the heat for 1-2 seconds. Quickly add another 1/3 of the amount and cook it for 15 seconds and remove it from the heat or 1-2 seconds. Add the remaining 1/3 amount of starch and cook for 15 seconds. Lastly, add the remaining 1/3 of the meat.
Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle 2 grams of grounded Sichuan peppercorns on the surface and voila! Your tasty Mapo Tofu is ready to be eaten with a warm bowl of steamed rice!
Enjoy it with some chopped green onion (green part) sprinkled on the surface for some extra aroma.
For the Lazy:
If you are too lazy for shopping or you are living abroad whre is not always easy to find all the ingredients, you just need to buy Tofu. DeZhuang seasoning for Mapo Tofu will make the rest. Follow the Cooking instructions by watching the video in the products section (Mapo Tofu) or on our Youtube Channel.