Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province, allegedly named for the pockmarked (“ma” from mázi, 麻子) ) wife (“po” from “pópo”, 婆婆) who supposedly invented it at her husband’s restaurant. Authentic Mapo doufu is powerfully spicy with both conventional “heat” spiciness and the characteristic “mala” (麻辣, numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. The feel of the particular dish is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: 麻 (numbing), 辣 (spicy hot), 烫 (hot temperature), 鲜 (fresh), 嫩 (tender and soft), 香 (aromatic), and 酥 (flaky).
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons hot bean paste
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- kosher salt to taste
- 1 lb. regular or soft (not silken) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons corn, peanut, or canola oil
- 1/2 lb ground pork shoulder (preferably 75% lean)
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced peeled fresh ginger
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Japanese sesame oil
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon toasted Sichuan peppercorn powder
- 3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallion
Make sauce: Stir together broth, bean paste, soy sauce, and kosher salt. Set aside.
Poach tofu: Slide tofu into a saucepan of simmering water and keep at a bare simmer while stir-frying rest of dish.
Stir-fry pork: Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot and add 1 1/2 tablespoons corn oil, swirling to coat. Add pork and stir-fry, breaking up lumps and adding remaining 1/2 tablespoon corn oil if meat sticks, until no longer pink. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry over moderate heat until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Finish stir-fry: Stir reserved sauce, then add to pork and bring to a simmer. Drain tofu in a large sieve and slide into sauce, stirring gently.
Stir cornstarch mixture and add to stir-fry. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook until thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds.
Turn off heat and sprinkle with sesame oil, Sichuan peppercorn powder to taste, and 2 tablespoons scallion. Stir once or twice, then serve sprinkled with remaining tablespoon scallion.
last updated August 17, 2023