Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

Cook time: 20 minutes  |  Total time: 30 min  |  Serves: 4

Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐 *Má pó dòufu*) is a spicy Sichuan tofu dish wok fried with chilli oil, minced meat, bean based sauces and topped with the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn. It translates into English as literally "pockmarked grandma's tofu." I won't elaborate more on the name. My recipe comes from my father's simple, but tried and tested recipe mixed with own techniques. During WWII he narrowly escaped the Rape of Nanking and somehow made his way to Chongqing where he worked as a translator for the allied forces. And like most Chinese, he had a huge love for the spicy cuisine of Sichuan province. 

In this recipe I've used beef, which my father preferred over the more common pork, however, you can use either meat. I've also used a mix of chilli oils: the famous Guizhou chilli oil and my own homemade chilli oil (recipe to be posted in the next entry). For people who say they're not really into tofu, I usually cook this for them to change their mind. The tofu absorbs the spicy meat flavours and you forget you're eating tofu. I for one do prefer tofu dishes with savoury flavours. I can't just eat a cold loaf of tofu by itself. When I was a child I remember one of my mother's friends describing how she mixes tofu with cottage cheese and peaches... imagine the collective horror on the faces of me and my brothers. Let's just say that "recipe" is not going down on my blog.

What you'll need and how much:

— 4 cloves of garlic mined
— 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
— 2 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns
— 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
— 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
— 1 teaspoon of sugar
— 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
— 4 tablespoons of of light soy sauce
— 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing rice wine
— 1 tablespoon of black bean sauce
— 3 tablespoons of Chilli Oil
— 450g of mince beef or pork
— 300g of medium firm tofu
— 1/4 cup of broth or water (2oz)

See and read

Or skip to abridged recipe


Marinate the minced meat with 2 tablespoons of light soy, sugar, and rice vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes.

Cut the block of tofu into small cubes about 1/2 inch x 3. It's best to use medium firm tofu. If it's too firm, it's just too dry. Silken tofu will fall apart when cooking in the wok.

Meanwhile, heat the Sichuan peppercorns in a pan on medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes while stirring. When it's starts to get more fragrant and you hear a light popping, remove from the pan and crush in a mortar and pestle until it's relatively fine.

Heat the oil in a wok on high heat and fry the marinated beef for 1 minute. As it starts to brown, add the mined garlic and ginger. Continue to fry on high heat for an additional 5 minutes until the meat has browned.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of light soy, chilli oil, black bean sauce, Shaoxing wine and 1/4 cup of broth or water (2 oz). Reduce heat to medium and allow to sauté for 5 minutes. In this recipe I've my own homemade chilli oil sauce (left) and the famous Guizhou chilli sauce (right).

Add the tofu and delicately mix with the beef so as to not break the tofu. Cover for about 3 minutes to steam the mixture on low heat.

Remove the cover and bring back to high heat for 1 minute. Remove to a serving plate and douse the crushed Sichuan peppercorns using a wire skimmer to filter only the finely crushed bits. Garnish with spring onions and coriander.

Abridged Recipe

Ingredients

— 4 cloves of garlic mined
— 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
— 2 tablespoons of Sichuan peppercorns
— 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
— 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
— 1 teaspoon of sugar
— 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
— 4 tablespoons of of light soy sauce
— 2 tablespoons of shaoxing rice wine
— 1 tablespoon of black bean sauce
— 3 tablespoons of Chili Oil
— 450g of mince beef or pork
— 300g of medium firm tofu
— 1/4 cup of broth or water (2oz)

Recipe

  1. Marinate the minced meat with 2 tablespoons of light soy, sugar, and rice vinegar and set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Cut the block of tofu into small cubes about 1/2 inch x 3.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the Sichuan peppercorns in a pan on medium heat for about 2 to 3 minutes while stirring. When it's starts to get more fragrant and you hear a light popping, remove from the pan and crush in a mortar and pestle until it's relatively fine.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok on high heat and fry the marinated beef for 1 minute. As it starts to brown, add the mined garlic and ginger. Continue to fry on high heat for an additional 5 minutes until the meat has browned.
  5. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of light soy, chilli oil, black bean sauce, shaoxing wine and 1/4 cup of broth or water (2 oz). Reduce heat to medium and allow to sauté for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tofu and delicately mix with the beef so as to not break the tofu. Cover for about 3 minutes to steam the mixture on low heat.
  7. Remove the cover and bring back to high heat for 1 minute. Remove to a serving plate and douse the crushed Sichuan peppercorns using a wire skimmer to filter only the finely crushed bits. Garnish with spring onions and coriander.

Photo Credits: Jenny Smart

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