Mapo tofu is one of the most popular Chinese dishes in the world. It's a simple dish: spicy ground beef and tofu in a thick, savory sauce. The tofu is cooked in a hot, oily, Chile-and-bean-based red sauce, giving the dish beautiful, vibrant red colors. The dish is served over rice or noodles, and it is one of China’s most popular ways of cooking tofu.
Why is mapo tofu so popular?
Mapo tofu（麻婆豆腐） is a popular Chinese dish of Sichuan Province, where tangy foods are king, with the region’s signature spice, the Sichuan peppercorn, giving dishes the signature Sichuan province numbing spiciness.
A real authentic mapo tofu is intensely tangy, bringing together the traditional heat spiciness of Sichuan province cuisine with a distinctive numbing (spicy-numbing) flavor. Mapo tofu contains a variety of ingredients, each bringing something unique to the table.
The key to this dish is in the name: mala/ma-la. This means "numb spiciness" or "numbing hot," referring to Sichuan peppercorns and chili peppers, two classic ingredients that add spice and warmth to any dish.
The most crucial and essential ingredients of the dish which give its unique flavor are the pixian（郫县） county (Pi Xian Dou Ban Jiang郫县豆瓣酱) chili wide bean paste (salty bean paste), fermented black beans, lots of roasted red hot chili oil, chili flakes from heaven-faced peppers (Zhao Tian La Jiao), Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, spring onions, and rice wine.
The classic recipe is made with silken tofu, minced pork or beef, fermented broad beans and soybeans (doubannjiang豆瓣酱), fermented black beans (doubanjiang), Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, spring onions, and rice wine. Together, these ingredients give Mapo tofu its complex char. Sichuan peppercorns lend a mala--tingly heat--and fermented black beans, give the dish a kick.
This dish is traditionally made with dried chilis, garlic, soy sauce, and ground pork. You could also use store-bought mapo tofu paste instead of making it yourself.
The trick of cooking Mapo tofu
Don't mix it too much. When you're mixing the tofu, the tofu will get pretty wet, and then it will start sticking together. If you mix it too much, your tofu will become mushy. So just give it a couple of stirs with a spatula or wooden spoon until all of the pieces get coated in sauce.
I know it can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a pretty straightforward dish! As long as you add all the ingredients right in order, make everything look combined enough for our liking (which usually takes less than five minutes). The taste is just as good!
After a while, you’ll be able to do this dish with your eyes closed. It's so easy!
Mapo tofu is one of my favorite dishes. It has a deep flavor, but it’s not too spicy. I love the texture of the tofu and ground pork together in this recipe. It also makes for a tasty meal with deeply satisfying. Give it a try and you will fall in love with it.😊
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 4 whole dried red chilies
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh garlic minced
- 4 oz ground pork
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine
- 2 tablespoons spicy bean paste doubanjiang
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 14 oz one block medium firm tofu, cut into ½ -inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons slurry or dry sherry
- Salt to taste
- Sugar to taste
- 1 green onion chopped (for garnish)
- First, put the oil in a wok, preferably nonstick, and turn the heat to medium-high. Toss the dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then take them out.
- In the same wok, add garlic, ginger, and green onions (white part), and stir well.
- Add the ground pork and stir to break it up. Stir until it loses all its pink color.
- Add the spicy bean sauce, and chicken broth. Mix well.
- Turn the heat to medium and add the cubed tofu. Mix gently and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until well blended and the tofu is heated through.
- Slowly pour the slurry and Shaoxing cooking wine into your sauce and stir until thickened.
- Sprinkle the green onion slices on top of the dish to garnish.
- Serve hot with steamed white rice. Enjoy!