I sometimes see Mapo Doufu on menus in American Chinese restaurants, but it is so easy (and ridiculously cheap) to make I cant imagine ordering it. This classic of Sichuan cuisine (川菜) combines the heat of chilies, the numbing of sichuan peppers (花椒), and the pungent fragrance of the combination of the fermented black beans (豆豉) and hot bean paste (辣豆瓣醬). It pretty much becomes a staple in my house whenever the thermometer shows an inclination of dipping.
The name 麻婆豆腐 (Mapo doufu) is generally said to mean “pockmarked old woman tofu.” Legend has it it is named for the old women on the outskirts of Sichuan city of Chengdu who invented the dish. One way or another this dish stretches what even in the U.S. was once, before the advent of feedlots, a precious resource; namely meat.
- ~16 oz. Tofu
- 2 T of oil for frying
- 3 green onions white and light green parts only, chopped (save the dark green for garnish)
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- ~6 oz. ground beef or pork
- 1 T minced ginger
- 2 T hot bean paste 辣豆瓣醬
- 1 T fermented black beans 豆豉, chopped
- 2 pickled sichuan chilies (optional)
- 1 T rice wine
- 1 T soy sauce
- 1 1/2 c stock or water
- 1/2 t salt
- 1 t sugar
- 1 T cornstarch
- 3 T water
- Sichuan Hot Oil [ 紅油 (hong you)]
- 1 T chopped garlic and or chopped green onion (optional).
- 1/2 to 1 t. ground sichuan pepper 花椒, depending on how hot you want it.
- Cut tofu into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes.*
- Mix “1, liquid” in a bowl and set aside.
- Heat wok add 2 T of oil, stir fry the ground beef, chopped green onions, minced garlic until just cooked.
- Add the ginger, hot bean paste, fermented black beans, and pickled chilies. Stir fry until fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes.
- Add “1, Liquid” and bring to a boil. Slide in tofu and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Mix “2, Thickener” in a small bowl and add. Simmer gently until thickened. Add the hot oil(hong you), stir and let the oil come to the top. Then remove from heat and garnish with garlic and or green onions, and ground sichuan pepper.
＊For more authentic flavor bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the cubed tofu and blanch for about 3 minutes then drain and set aside.
Tip: If one grinds their own sichuan peppercorns, dry roasts the the sichuan peppercorns in dry frying pan over medium heat for a minute or two. The peppercorns grind easier.