This easy mapo tofu recipe features soft tofu coated in a spicy and savory sauce with deep aromas from the garlic, green onion, and chilies. This incredibly flavorful tofu dish pairs perfectly with a bowl of steamed rice, and comes together quickly using a simple list of ingredients.
The beauty of Chinese cuisine
Living in Toronto, I have been extremely fortunate to explore a vast array of authentic Chinese dishes which in turn gave me an immense appreciation for Chinese food culture.
Amongst many elements, I particularly find the complexity of flavors and the sophistication of each dish to be incredibly astounding, to a point that I’ve made it my goal to learn and practice different styles of Chinese cuisine with every given opportunity.
Above all, learning Chinese tofu recipes marked the starting point of my journey as I fell deeply in love with Sichuan cuisine and its signature dish, Mapo Tofu.
Sichuan cuisine, alternately romanized as Szechwan cuisine or Szechuan cuisine, is a style of Chinese cuisine that I was fortunate to be introduced by a close friend from the region.
It is iconic for its use of garlic, chili peppers, and most importantly Sichuan pepper that is commonly used as an aromatic base for most of its signature dishes.
Notable for its tingly, numbing sensation, it’s classified in an entirely different flavor profile than most common spices, and one that’s truly addicting once you’ve developed a taste for it.
What is Mapo Tofu?
Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is an incredibly popular Chinese tofu dish from the Sichuan province that’s captured the globe with its irresistible flavors.
Although there are many variations of this dish, I will be sharing the traditional style of Mapo Tofu that consists of silky soft cubes of tofu and minced meat coated in a spicy, savory, and aromatic sauce that explodes in flavor for every bite that you take.
Given that this is one of my favorite dishes of all time, it took me a very long time to perfect the recipe, which makes it even more so special to share it with you all today. ツ
What do I need to make Mapo Tofu?
Despite its sophisticated flavors, this mapo tofu recipe calls for a simple list of ingredients, whereas the two key elements of spicy bean sauce (Doubanjiang) and Sichuan peppercorns can be easily sourced at your local Asian supermarket.
Here is everything you’ll need to make mapo tofu:
- Soft tofu: I recommend using soft tofu for this recipe as it has a silky smooth texture and just the right amount of firmness to hold up during the cooking process.
- Silken tofu is not recommended as it will disintegrate into the sauce, which leaves medium-firm tofu as the next best option.
- This is optional, but blanching the tofu in salted water for about a minute will help firm up the tofu prior to adding it to the sauce, as well as lightly season the tofu.
- Vegetable oil: or any neutral oil with a high smoke point.
- Garlic, green onion, and dried chili: for the aromas. Dried chili is not absolutely necessary, but used to create another layer of spice in the dish.
- If you have a lower spice tolerance, I’d recommend leaving it out and using just the garlic and green onion for the aromatic base.
- Minced chicken: pork, beef with a high fat ratio, or finely chopped mushrooms for a vegetarian option. The sauce calls for a small amount of minced meat, so you can use any kind that you have on hand.
- Spicy bean paste: Doubanjiang is a primary ingredient in this recipe, and can be found online or at an Asian grocery store.
- Chicken stock: you can use water as well, but using chicken stock will yield the most flavorful results.
- Oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and Sichuan peppercorns: for the sauce.
- If you are not a fan of the numbing flavors of Sichuan peppercorns, you can leave it out and proceed with the rest of the seasonings.
- To prepare your sichuan peppercorns, simply toast them on a dry skillet for about 30 seconds until fragrant, then use a mortar and pestle until it turns into a lightly coarse powder.
- Cornstarch: mixed with water to thicken the sauce.
- Sesame oil: for the finishing touch.
And that’s it! All the ingredients you’ll need to make the best mapo tofu in the comfort of your home.
Which type of spicy bean paste should I use?
Doubanjiang, also known as Toban Djan or broad bean paste, is a spicy bean paste made from fermented soybeans, broad beans, and hot chilies.
Spicy bean paste is an essential ingredient in Chinese cuisine that is often used to add a deep layer of spice to your dishes, including this Chinese tofu dish.
I highly recommend looking for “Pixian Broad Bean Paste” (pictured above) at the store as it will create the most umami-rich flavors and give you that beautiful red color in the sauce that is iconic for Mapo Tofu.
Pixian is an area in the Sichuan province that produces the best broad bean paste, and using this ingredient on its own will take your dish and any other Chinese tofu recipes to the next level.
They should be easy to find at Asian grocery stores, but you can also purchase it online if it is more convenient for you.
I hope you enjoy this spicy tofu recipe, and and as usual, please feel free to leave a comment below or message me on Instagram with any questions you may have. Happy cooking everyone!
Other easy Chinese recipes that you may like:
- 10-Minute Garlic Chili Oil Noodles
- 10-Minute Tomato Egg Stir Fry
- Easy Black Pepper Beef Stir Fry
- 10-Minute Sesame Noodles
- Easy Mongolian Chicken
Easy 15-Minute Mapo Tofu
- 1 (450g) package soft tofu cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 green onion divided
- 2 dried chili crushed
- 80 g minced chicken pork, beef, or finely chopped mushrooms
- 1 1/2 tbsp Doubanjiang (spicy bean paste)
- 1 cup chicken stock or water
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce or soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp each dark soy sauce, sugar, and ground sichuan pepper see notes below
- 1 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water, for the slurry
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add garlic, white parts of green onion, and dried chili and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add minced meat and cook for about 2 minutes while breaking up the meat with a spatula.
- Add doubanjiang and fry for another minute, stirring well to combine. Add chicken stock and season with oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, and ground sichuan pepper. Stir to combine and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add cornstarch slurry and stir continuously until thickened. Carefully stir in your tofu. Cook for about 2 minutes until the tofu is heated through. Season with salt to taste if needed, and finish with sesame oil.
- Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with reserved green onions, and serve immediately over a bowl of steamed rice. Enjoy!
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