Authentic Mapo Tofu Recipe

Authentic Mapo Tofu photo and Recipe
Authentic Mapo Tofu photo and Recipe. Liv Wan
  • 50 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 35 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is one of the signature dishes of Sichuan cuisine. It’s classic Sichuan food. The creator of this is was a lady called Chan Ma Po (陳麻婆) who had a pockmark on her face. In Chinese, a pockmark is Ma (麻) Po (婆) is a respectful form for an old lady in Chinese.

Chan Ma Po owned a little restaurant in Chengdu city around 1874. Most of her customers are porters who didn’t have a lot of money to pay for a proper meal. Tofu was their cheapest option but eating tofu everyday will get a little bit tedious so they gratefully asked Ma Po to cook the tofu in a different way. Ma Po used the ingredients she had around her at the time, including chili, Doubanjian (chili bean sauce), mince and spring onion to make this famious spicy, lip numbing and wonderful smelling tofu dish. Everyone loved this dish and this is how Mapo Tofu was invented.

There was an original site of Ma Po’s restaurant in Chengdu city but unfortunately it was burned down in 2005. Many people felt really sad about this as Ma Po’s restaurant played such an important part in the history of Sichuan cuisine so the Sichuan government rebuilt it again at another address in Chengdu city.

While cooking this dish it’s important that the tofu keeps it’s shape and the dish must be spicy, hot and lip numbing (the latter comes from the usage of Sichuan pepper). Most people think the best doubanjian (chili bean sauce) to go with this is from Pi County, Sichuan, but it’s difficult for people who live outside of China to get hold of this. So normal chili bean sauce for those who can’t get it from Pi County will be perfectly fine.

What You'll Need

  • Ingredients:
  • 600 grams tofu (firm regular)
  • 230 grams pork mince (or beef mince)
  • 2 spring onions chopped finely
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • Some finely chopped spring onion for garnish
  • Seasonings:
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Doubanjian (Chili bean sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 500 milliliters chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground Sichuan pepper (or to taste)

How to Make It

  1. Take the tofu out of the package and drain the tofu. Remove the hard edge of tofu and cut it into 2 cm cubes. Place it onto a plate covered with a kitchen napkin to dry the water from the tofu.
  2. Heat two tablespoons of oil and stir fry the garlic and spring onion first at a medium heat. Add the doubanjian into the wok and stir-fry for another 30 seconds. This procedure is really important as the doubanjian needs to fry first then the fragrance and flavour will come out much better and the dish will be much more delicious.
  1. Add the pork mince and stir-fry for another couple minutes until the mince is totally cooked. 
  2. Gently add tofu cubes into the wok and season with soy sauce, salt and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to gently push the tofu cubes in the wok so you won’t “mash” the tofu but also mix the ingredients and seasonings together. Pushing it gently is the key to keeping the tofu in shape. 
  3. Pour stock into the wok and boil it first then reduce it down. This way makes the tofu suck in all the flavour from the sauce and stock.
  4. After reducing the stock, add sesame oil and ground Sichuan pepper and gently mix them with tofu. Adding the Sichuan pepper at the last moment will lock in the flavours of the dish. If you add the Sichuan pepper too early this will overpower the dish and you’ll loose a lot of the flavour.
  5. Place the mapo tofu into a shallow bowl. Sprinkle with a little bit of chopped spring onion on top to garnish it. This dish is most commonly eaten with rice.