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A crowd favorite Chinese Sichuan dish, you will want this dish in your meal rotation! My recipe will finally deliver the authentic taste you have been chasing after.
Born and raised in a Chinese family, I am very familiar with Mapo Tofu. But as a kid, I only get to enjoy this delicious tofu dish when my family goes to Chinese restaurants.
My family is Cantonese, and Mapo Tofu is just not part of that heritage. It’s not like Grandma and Mom had the internet back then to help them looking up recipes like we do. But once I started learning to cook, Mapo Tofu is one of the recipes that I want to be part of my cooking repertoire.
What is Mapo Tofu?
Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) is an iconic Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It is a dish of small cubes of silken tofu doused in a fiery bright red spicy sauce.
Ground meat such as pork or beef is usually present alongside silken tofu. There are also vegetarian variations using mushrooms such as wood ear fungus or shiitake to replace ground meat.
The main ingredients of the sauce are chili bean sauce (豆瓣酱 - dou ban jiang), salted black beans (豆豉 - dou chi), and Sichuan peppercorns (花椒 - hua jiao). For those who love a truly spicy dish, feel free to add chili oil (辣油) and chili flakes.
Ingredients for Mapo Tofu
- silken tofu
- ground pork
- dou ban jiang (chili bean sauce)
- salted black beans
- Sichuan peppercorns
- Shaoxing wine
- soy sauce
- chicken stock
- sesame oil
Dou ban jiang (chili bean sauce)
You should be able to find a bottle of chili bean sauce in most supermarkets. Lee Kum Kee’s chili bean sauce is probably the most common, but if you can get chili bean sauce from Sichuan’s Pixian county, I highly recommend doing so.
Salted black beans
Salted black beans are fermented black soybeans using steamed black soybeans and salt. These little black beans pack a punch of flavors even if you add a mere one or two teaspoons to your dishes.
They usually come in a plastic pouch and cost under US$5 per packet if you get them from a brick and mortar store. If your supermarket doesn’t have them, you can also use a bottle of black bean garlic sauce.
Unlike black peppers or white peppers, Sichuan peppercorns are more lemony, and they give a numbing sensation when you bite in them. If you want to cook authentic Sichuan dishes in your kitchen, you cannot get away from buying some Sichuan peppercorns.
Step-by-step to cooking Mapo Tofu
1. Prep work
- Cut silken tofu into small cubes (~ 1/2 inch).
- Mince garlic.
- Chop scallions into 1/2 inch pieces.
- Rinse and drain salted black beans.
- Prepare cornstarch slurry by mixing 1 tablespoon cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water.
Heat a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat the wok. Sauté garlic and black beans until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
Add ground pork and stir until no longer pink. Add chili bean sauce and Shaoxing wine, and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chicken stock. Once it boils, add tofu cubes and simmer for 3 minutes.
Add chopped scallions and mix well. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue stirring until the sauce is thick.
Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoon salted black beans, rinsed and drained
- 150 gram (5.3 oz) ground pork
- 2 tablespoon dou ban jiang/chili bean sauce
- 2 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
- 1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 2 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 cup chicken stock/water
- 450 gram (1 lb) silken tofu, cut into cubes
- 2 scallions, cut into 1 cm lengths
- cornstarch slurry (1 tablespoon cornstarch + 2 tablespoon water)
- Heat a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil and swirl to coat the wok. Sauté garlic and black beans until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Add ground pork and stir until no longer pink. Add chili bean sauce and Shaoxing wine, and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add Sichuan peppercorns, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chicken stock. Once it boils, add tofu cubes and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add chopped scallions and mix well. Add the cornstarch slurry and continue stirring until the sauce is thick.
- Turn off the heat, transfer to a serving bowl, and serve immediately with steamed white rice.
We absolutely love this dish,so glad to have found this recipe! Beautiful picture!
Hi Sharon, it is our favorite too :)
Hi Anita, Nice & tempting recipe. What is dou ban jiang/chili bean sauce? Where can I buy it? Maybe you can recommend the brand too? Thx so much!
Hi Maya, if you are in Indonesia, the easiest one is to get chili bean sauce (dou ban jiang) from Lee Kum Kee. Most supermarkets should carry this brand. Cheers :)
Yes, I got it today at All Fresh! Gotta try this tomorrow... Thx so much, Anita!
the lousy cook wife says:
Hello, Where can I find this andaliman/merica Batak? I live in Jakarta. What does it look like? Thanks!
Hi Stephanie, they are sold in Pasar Senen. Or, if you somehow have Szechuan peppercorns, you can use that instead. As for how they look, please take a look at this link from Google Image :)
Jessica Goenawan says:
Hi, what's black bean sauce? and if there is a recommended alternative? Thanks!
Hi Jessica, black bean sauce is a Chinese sauce made mostly from fermented black beans (dou chi), garlic, and ginger. The easiest and most widely available is Lee Kum Kee black bean sauce. If you don't have this, you can skip, and simply increase the amount of dou ban jiang a little to compensate.
Most delicious! I've always wanted to make this from scratch (my only experience at home is with the instant Mapo sauce, I think a Japanese brand?) and it's certainly worth buying a jar of dou ban jiang for. I was slightly wary on how spicy it could be, because I recall having one from a Sichuan restaurant that was absolutely blistering! This one was definitely reasonable, possibly even "mild" compared to other recipes I've tried here!
I used a lean ground beef, so I went heavy handed with the oils, but even if I don't have the ground pork, tofu is the real star.
The more concerning substitution I made was using "Black bean garlic sauce" (Lee Kum Kee), but I'm not sure how different it would be from "salted black bean sauce." Chinese bean and chili sauces totally confuse me, so I definitely appreciate having a brand, photo, or Amazon link... in this case I used something I already had on hand. Either way, it cooked up fine and tasted "beany" enough to me hahahaa
Anyway, it was soooo quick and easy- the main challenge is to get proper bean sauces (unless you've got a well stocked Chinese kitchen already), but I've seen many different variations, I think it's pretty forgiving if all you have is tofu and a little meat! Perfect for us tofu-loving omnivores :9
Hi Anita, Love your blogs! I am also Chinese Indonesian which currently living in the Netherlands. Have the same problem as you describe, my family lives in Indonesië and i am here crafting Indonesian and Chinese food. I am so glad to find your blog. It looks so easy with a clear step-by-step to make it, plus nice picture of the food. Makes me hungry already by looking at it . Well thanks for sharing it with us. :-)
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