The best mapo tofu recipe

Society & Culture

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐 mápó dòufu) — translated literally as “pockmarked grandma’s beancurd” — is a classic dish from Sichuan Province that all Chinese people know. Kaiser knows exactly how to cook it. This week’s column comes from one of his answers originally posted on Quora on January 3, 2018:

What is the best Ma Po Tofu recipe?

Here’s mine. Mind you, I cook by feel so this is not super accurate:


  • One package soft (silken) tofu, cut into 2 cm cubes
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Sichuan douban sauce (real Pixian doubanjiang [broad bean paste, 郫縣豆瓣醬; pinyin: píxiàn dòubànjiàng] — you can get this at any good Asian grocery)
  • 100 grams ground pork
  • 2 scallions (spring onions), chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 300 mL chicken broth
  • Sichuan peppercorns, 2 tsp, finely ground
  • Cooking oil (peanut, vegetable, whatever), ~2 tbsp

1. Heat the oil in a wok over medium-high heat until shimmering.

2. Fry about half the spring onions, the garlic, and the ginger (optional) and sugar (also optional).

3. Fry the douban sauce, continuing for about two minutes. The oil should have a bright red color.

4. Add the ground pork, and cook until pork is cooked through.

5. Gently place the tofu in the wok, being careful to just gingerly turn it over with the spatula rather than aggressively stirring. Do this until the color is uniformly spread.

6. Add chicken broth until you’ve covered the tofu. Add more for shits and giggles. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer another 15 minutes. (Some people prefer a thicker sauce; I don’t, but if you want thicker, you can take a little chicken broth, stir in a tsp of corn starch, and then introduce that into the wok at this point).

7. Sprinkle on the Sichuan peppercorns and top with the remaining chopped scallion.

Note: Douban sauces are very salty, typically. They vary, though, in saltiness, so you may need to experiment. If you want to raise the spiciness level without raising the salinity, you can fry some crushed red chilies in the oil first and then sieve the oil before beginning. If you don’t like the powdered peppercorn but want that characteristic Sichuan ma taste, you can add a handful of peppercorns along with or instead of chilies, fry them over medium heat being careful to remove before they blacken, then remove the peppercorns with a sieve before proceeding.

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