Authentic Mapo Tofu
Literally meaning “pock-marked old lady tofu” this dish has to have one of the least complimentary names in all of Chinese food. It uses Chengdu’s famous Pixian chilli bean paste -豆瓣酱, sold in English as tobanjian, doubanjiang or other variations, this has become a classic of Sichuan cookery. It’s very easy to make, too.
600g firm tofu
200g beef mince
4 tbsp canola or peanut oil
¼ cup doubanjiang (Sichuan chilli bean sauce)
2 tbsp salted black beans
1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
6 thick spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
salt and sugar, to season
1 tsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, to serve
Bring a pot of water to just below a simmer and season lightly with salt. Cut the tofu into 2.5cm cubes and add to the water. Heat gently for about 10-15 minutes.
Heat a wok over high heat and add a tablespoon or two of the oil. Fry the beef mince until well browned then remove from the wok and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the wok and fry the tobanjiang until the oil turns red. Add the black beans, chilli powder (if using), garlic and ginger and fry for about a minute until fragrant.
Drain the tofu and add it to the wok, along with 1-2 cups of water. Stir gently and bring to a simmer. Add the fried beef and spring onion and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Adjust for seasoning with salt and sugar as required, and then thicken the mixture with the cornflour slurry, adding a little at a time so that the sauce is thickened and silky, but not gloopy. Transfer to a serving boal and serve scattered with ground Sichuan pepper.
Top Tips for Mapo Tofu
- You can use pork mince if you prefer, but beef is more traditional.
- Try to use a firm tofu that holds its shape but is still tender. You don’t want the tofu to be too hard, but you also don’t want it breaking apart to much in the dish.
- The doubanjiang chilli bean paste can vary a lot between brands – both in texture and in taste. Make sure you adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar if needed before serving.
Hi, this looks great. can i use other flour for the slurry as well? Love your stuff. Greetings from Germany
Because of a corn allergy I used potato starch in an equal amount and it worked very well.
You can also use “Speisestärke” since Corn flour, potato flour etc. are binders
Would you adjust the recipe at all if you were using silken tofu instead?
Yes, but not a good idea to use soft tofu as it would break up unless treated very, very gently.
Great recipe; used vegetarian mince instead and worked perfectly, no other substitutions needed for veggie/vegan.
Thanks for consistently great content Adam ♥️
I’ve made this recipe a few times now with my friends and it’s come out truly amazing. It’s so different to anything we’re used to eat in my country. The proportions and the choice of ingredients are perfect. Also, the video is precise and straightforward.
Where do you guys find salted black beans?
I get them from chinese grocery stores 🙂
Mostly in an Asian store. Some Brands are Lee Kum Kee etc.
Go to any Asian supermarket or food shop. It might even be available at Woolworths.
I dont think silken works… normally silken is so runny it will disappear in the water if you try to boil it.
I use silken all the time. Turns out great. You just need to stir very gently. Some pieces break but thats part of the beauty of this dish.
I use silken all the time and it turns out great. You just need to stir very gently. Some pieces break but thats part of the beauty of this dish.
I used chicken stock in place of water. Very good. Must remember to season well with salt and sugar. Tasty. Thank you
Do not boil the silken tofu in water.
And add salt beforehand on the silken tofu and leave it aside 15 minutes beforehand , this is done to lose excess moisture
Great recipe. I’ve lived in Asia (various countries) and tried so many versions. Adam’s is most close to that eaten in Beijing. To make the firm tofu softer, Blanche for a minute in boiling water and carefully drain just before use. Personally my favourite is silken tofu but you have to be extremely gentle . In the Philippines I found my all time favourite version (mapo Tokwa) They use hand chopped fatty pork mince and few dried shrimp finishing with a large amount of chopped coriander . Add the chopped stalks in during the last minute of cooking then top with all the leaves on serving. Use a big handful. I think this would be a Hakka version