Mapo tofu is extremely popular both in and outside of China, perhaps because it was meant to be adaptable. The type and amount of both tofu and meat is often varied and even the spicy sauce can be tuned to the desired level of heat.

Louisa Shafia
Source: EatingWell Magazine, May 2020

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Recipe Summary

active:
35 mins
total:
35 mins
Servings:
6
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Combine 5 tablespoons oil, chili bean paste, fermented black beans and chile flakes (or crushed red pepper) in a small bowl. Whisk cornstarch and water in another small bowl. Set both next to the stove.

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  • Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large flat-bottom wok or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked through and browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

  • Add the reserved chili bean paste mixture to the pan and cook until fragrant, being careful not to burn it, about 1 minute. Add water (or broth), soy sauce and scallions. Return the beef to the pan, then add tofu; bring to a simmer, gently tossing the tofu with the sauce, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the cornstarch slurry, stirring, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with ground Sichuan peppercorns.

Tips

Equipment: Spice grinder or mortar and pestle

Tips: Pixian chili bean paste (doubanjiang): A salty and spicy umami concentrate made with chiles and fermented fava beans, the paste gives deep flavor to braises, soups and stir-fries. It is sometimes labeled "broad bean" chili paste.

Fermented black beans (douchi): These black beans are preserved in a heady mix of liquor and spices. The beans can be added to an array of dishes to add both salt and flavor. The more familiar Cantonese black beans make a good substitute but are fermented with salt only, so rinse them before using.

Sichuan chile flakes: Whole dried chiles that have been fried until crisp and ground into a mix of flakes, powder and seeds. Korean pepper powder, available at Korean markets and online, is a good substitute.

To grind Sichuan peppercorns, sort and discard any black seeds or twigs. Toast in a dry skillet over low heat until very fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes (do not brown them). Let cool, then grind in a spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle to your desired coarseness. Sift out any yellow husks that don't break down. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition Facts

196 calories; protein 6.7g 13% DV; carbohydrates 5.7g 2% DV; exchange other carbs 0.5; dietary fiber 1.1g 4% DV; sugars 0.6g; fat 16.8g 26% DV; saturated fat 2.8g 14% DV; cholesterol 7.2mg 2% DV; vitamin a iu 524.6IU 11% DV; vitamin c 3.5mg 6% DV; folate 10.6mcg 3% DV; calcium 60.9mg 6% DV; iron 1.2mg 7% DV; magnesium 7.4mg 3% DV; potassium 94.4mg 3% DV; sodium 703mg 28% DV.