Mapo Tofu is a traditional Chinese dish originating from the Sichuan Province highlighting the Sichuan “spicy” characteristics.
Usually, the main ingredients consist of tofu, beef (or pork), chili peppers and Sichuan pepper (peppercorns) making it quite hot and spicy, but today I will teach you how to make it without the meat.
The Story Of Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu was founded in the first year of the Qing Dynasty Tongzhi (1862). On the Chengdu Wanfu Bridge, there used to be a Chen Xing Sheng rice shop frequented by travelers seeking a cool resting stop.
When the original owner, Chen Chunfu, died it was taken over by a woman and became known as “Chen Ma Po.” Chen’s unique cooking techniques producing an extraordinarily flavored tofu won the people’s favor.
She created a stewed tofu, known as “Chen Ma Po Tofu”, and her shop later being named the same.
The Development of Mapo Tofu Recipes
Due to its widespread popularity, Mapo Tofu has gone through a few changes over time, one of which was to replace beef with pork, to cater for diners who did not eat beef.
Pork is now more widely preferred by chefs and diners alike. The other significant change was the addition of bean paste.
Mapo tofu looks easy but actually requires some skill to make. A good Mapo Tofu must be bright red, rich in spicy aromas, soft to the palate but with a hot and salty-spicy flavor.
It goes great with rice, so you’re gonna eat more rice with this dish! Mapo Tofu differs from region to region and has been adapted according to local eating habits. The method of making Mapo Tofu has also changed significantly.
To make a delicious, authentic Mapo Tofu, please follow every step carefully. I have a list of helpful tips at the end of this post which is also important to check. Please check my previous post on how to make Spicy Oil, a common and necessary ingredient to a lot of Sichuan cooking, and therefore a major factor to your success with this recipe.
Mapo Tofu is truly a great addition to any Chinese banquet, and if you follow the steps carefully, to achieve the gorgeous color and taste you will have your dinner guests to coming back for more!
How to Make Mapo Tofu
- 2 quartets gypsum tofu
- 1 clove of garlic
- 10 g piece of ginger (about the same size as the garlic clove)
- 3 tablespoons Spicy Oil (about 60 ml)
- 1 tablespoon Pixian bean paste (about 12g)
- 1 teaspoon tempeh
- 10 g Sichuan pepper
- 75 ml pig or beef bone soup stock
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon seasoning powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 40 g Wet starch
- 10 g red chili flakes
- 1 green onion, chopped
- ½ teaspoon fresh coriander for garnish
Cut the tofu into 2.5cm cubes.
Boil about 1 L of water with 2 teaspoons of salt and cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes to bring out the bean flavor.
Scoop out the tofu out of the water with a hand-held sieve to drain.
Finely chop the ginger and garlic.
Add 2 tablespoons of Spicy Oil to a clean wok.
When the oil is hot, sauté the garlic and ginger.
Add the tempeh, bean paste, and Sichuan pepper, and stir until the aromas are released.
Add the pig bone soup stock.
Bring the stock to the boil, add the tofu cubes and stir gently with a wooden spatula to coat the tofu evenly.
Next add the salt, soy sauce, seasoning powder and garlic powder and stir.
Gradually add the wet starch a third at a time, blending it in well each time before adding the next third. Stir until the mixture thickens.
Pour in the tablespoon of Spicy Oil.
The Mapo Tofu is ready to serve! Plate up and sprinkle with the chili pepper flakes, spring onion and coriander.
Mapo Tofu Nutrition Facts and Calorie Count
One serve of Mapo Tofu (300.0 grams) contains 412 calories. It will take 61.5 minutes of jogging to burn these calories.
Per 100 grams of the food contains:
4.49 g carbohydrates
7.85 g fat
12.81 g protein
1. Mapo Tofu uses gypsum tofu, which has a richer bean flavor compared to lactone tofu.
2. Chopping the tofu and then boiling it brings out the bean flavor.
3. Two things help to keep the tofu’s shape and prevent the cubes from being damaged: One is to add salt to the water to increase the tofu’s coagulation. Secondly, the wok fire should be low and stir fry action light and gentle.
4. Fry the tempeh, bean paste and Sichuan pepper on medium to preserve the red color; watch you do not burn them.
5. Authentic Mapo Tofu must have Spicy Oil, not only for a brilliant red color but also for the amazing aroma and taste.
6. The wet starch must be poured in thirds – not all at once – and stirred to combine after each addition. If poured in altogether it will be too thick and adversely affect the taste of the dish.