Mapo tofu is a specialty of China’s Sichuan province, and a paragon of the region’s famed ma la, or numbing and spicy, flavor. The complex flavor of this Chinese dish comes from three key ingredients: Sichuan chili flakes, umami-rich doubanjiang (a fermented chile–broad bean paste), and citrusy, tingling, mildly mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns (the berry of a prickly ash tree). Together, these ingredients bring a complex burn to the stew-like mapo tofu, which combines ground pork, douchi (fermented black beans), soy sauce, chicken stock, and cubes of creamy soft tofu for a quick-cooking wok meal. Thickened with cornstarch and garnished with green onions and ground Sichuan pepper, mapo tofu is best served over steamed white rice, with a refreshing, cooling beverage alongside.
We tested this mapo tofu recipe with several brands of fermented bean and chili paste, each varying in flavor and texture. Anything labeled “toban jiang” or “doubanjiang” will work, but it’s worth seeking out jars labeled Pixian or Chengdu for this icon of Sichuan cuisine.
Editor’s note: This recipe was originally published in the July 2008 issue of ‘Gourmet’ and first appeared on Epicurious in August 2008.
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Chili Bean Paste, pack of 2$24 At Amazon
Sichuan Red Chili Powder$12 At Amazon
Red Sichuan Peppercorns$10 At Amazon
Fermented Black Beans$8 At Amazon
Grind peppercorns in grinder and set aside.
Cut tofu into ¾-inch cubes and pat dry.
Heat wok over high heat until it begins to smoke, then pour oil down side and swirl to coat bottom and side. Stir-fry pork until no longer pink. Add bean sauce, black beans, and chile powder and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in stock, soy sauce, sugar, tofu, and a pinch of salt. Simmer, gently stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together cornstarch and water until smooth.
Stir cornstarch slurry mixture into stir-fry and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Stir in scallions and simmer 1 minute. Serve sprinkled with Sichuan pepper.
Serve with rice.
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Reviews (7)Back to Top
I had never tasted this dish before, so never made it either. But I love, love, love Asian cuisine and the photo here is SO pretty. I also love tofu. Made this dish, without the oil, and it was fantastic!!! Super spicy, the tofu (I used silken) was slurpy and satisfying. Yum yum!
This is one of my favorite recipes. Make sure you use the tobanjiang (hot bean sauce) and sichuan peppercorn (order from amazon if you don't have a chinese food store near you). I've even gotten my brother, a renowned tofu-hater, to eat this dish. Enjoy!
Made this last night. Delicious. Will add to the "regular" rotation. Followed exactly although I used spicy thai chili powder, that I had on hand, which made it very hot! I had never really made a tofu based recipe before. Wow. Spouse and myself both had seconds.
I made this as listed except I had to substitute black peppercorns for the Sichuan variety because the two local Asian Markets did not carry them. My family found it to be very spicy, I will probably cut back on the chile powder next time, but everyone loved it. A definite keeper.
Excellent! Guests at an important business luncheon scraped their plates (served with chinese chicken salad, also on this site as well as cold sichuan sesame noodles). The only thing I altered was to use low sodium soy sauce. This is a great, simple, over-the-top for flavor recipe.
Made the recipe without any oil and minus the pork. It was healthy and great. Will make again.
This dish is amazing and so easy. The secret is the sichuan pepper. It won't be the same without it.
Newport Beach, CA