Authentic Szechuan style mapo tofu is one of the branding dishes of Szechuan cuisine. It is spicy, numbing, hot, aromatic and tender. Making the yummiest mapo tofu at home for several bowls of steamed rice.
Mapo tofu is one of the top ten famous Chinese dishes and enjoys a high popularity among not only Chinese people but also many western countries. Personally I like to cook this dish at home from time to time especially in cool seasons such as winter and fall. Do you love it?
If you know the Chinese name of Mapo tofu(麻婆豆腐), the answer might be tofu made by mapo or is mapo is kind of flavor. At the very beginning, Mapo tofu is named after its creator.
It is recorded that there is a couple who own a restaurant mainly selling vegetarian dishes. The wife also the cook gets some pock (麻子in Chinese)on her face. Her tofu dishes are quite popular among the guests. However some guests told her that they want to eat some meat rather than just tofu. So she bought some beef and cut it to granules and adding the beef into her tofu. Then the tofu dish with beef become more popular and her guests gave the name: Mapo tofu.Nowadays, along with the popular of this dish, there are many variations for example vegetarian version or pork version. Besides, mapo has becomes a kind of flavor which has also been used in other dishes.From the healthy consideration, tofu or bean curd is considered as one of the most nourishing cooking ingredients. There are many types of tofu product on market from soft tofu to firm tofu, from tofu skin to dried tofu etc. Surely, the cooking methods actually depend on the texture of the ingredients. For marinating, soft tofu is more fitful than firm tofu and for stir-frying and deep frying, firm tofu is better than soft tofu.
doubanjiang (豆瓣酱), the soul of Sichuan cuisine, is also known as broad bean paste. It is the essential ingredient for real Szechuan mapo tofu. Real Szechuan doubanjiang is full of flavor after long time of fermentation. You can search it in Asian stores or buy from Amazon.
Dou-chi (豆豉) is also known as fermented black beans. You can try to get some from local Asian market or purchase some from amazon: Chinese Douchi – Fermented Black Beans – 16 Oz Bag Each.
Freshly grounded Szechuan peppercorn powder (现磨花椒粉)is another important seasoning that highlights the dish. In almost every Szechuan style restaurants, they sprinkle freshly grounded Szechuan peppercorn powder before serving. But it is ok to skip this if you really do not like the numbing taste. But for Szechuan peppercorn lovers, do not skip this step. It will enhance your mapo tofu to another level.
Garlic greens (蒜苗) is the tender plant of garlic. In Sichuan province, people love to use garlic greens in Mapo tofu instead of scallion green. It is fresh, bright and with a hint of garlicky flavor. But you can use scallion to replace it.
- Rinse or soak the tofu cubes in boiling water with a little amount of salt can help to make the tofu tenderer and much strong. So you will not break them.
- During the processing, only back push to avoid destroying the texture of tofu.
- Since both doubanjiang and fermented soy beans are salty, then try the dish before adding any amount of salt.
- How to make grounded Sichuan Peppercorn: fry the fresh Sichuan peppercorn in a pan until you can smell the aroma. Transfer out and cool down. Put into food processor to ground into powder.
- During the braising process, use slowest fire to cook the tofu. It will absorb the taste with the help of time.
The best serving way with mapo tofu is with steamed rice.
- 450g silken tofu (I am using Szechuan tender lushui tofu)
- 100g minced meat-beef or pork
- ½ tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 and ½ tablespoons Doubanjiang, roughly chopped
- ½ tablespoon fermented black beans (also known as dou-chi and fermented soya beans), roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon pepper flakes or powder (optional)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ tablespoon Sichuan pepper for making fresh ground powder
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- water or broth for braising (I use 400ml this time)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 2 scallion white, finely chopped
- 4 garlic greens or scallion greens, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves,finely chopped
- 5 ginger slices, finely minced (around 1 teaspoon)
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional for reducing the spiciness)
- 2 and ½ tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- Add a small pinch of salt and sesame oil to minced beef. Mix well and set aside.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 and ½ tablespoons of water in a small bowl to make water starch.
- Cut tofu into square cubes (around 2cms). Bring a large amount of water to a boil and then add a pinch of salt. Slide the tofu in and cook for 1 minute. Move out and drain.
- Get a wok and heat up around 2 tablespoons of oil, fry the minced meat until crispy. Transfer out beef out and leave the oil in.
- Fry doubanjiang for 1 minute over slow fire and then add garlic, scallion white, ginger and fermented black beans to cook for 30 seconds until aroma. Then mix pepper flakes in.
- Add water to the seasonings and bring to boil over high fire. Gently slide the tofu cubes. Add light soy sauce and beef.Slow the heat after boiling and then simmer for 6-8 minutes. Then add chopped garlic greens.
- Stir the water starch and then pour half of the mixture to the simmering pot. Wait for around 30 seconds and then pour the other half. You can slightly taste the tofu and add pinch of salt if not salty enough. By the way, if you feel it is too spicy, add some sugar can milder the taste. But be carefully as the broth is very hot at this point.
- Transfer out when almost all the seasonings stick to tofu cubes. Sprinkle Szechuan peppercorn powder (to taste)and chopped garlic greens if using.
- Serve immediately with steamed rice.
Vegan readers, skip the minced pork or beef. And another choice is to replace the meat with mushrooms either dried or fresh ones to enhance the flavor. Mapo tofu with mushrooms.