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Mapo Tofu

A spicy, tongue-numbing Sichuan dish of silken tofu and ground beef packed with layers of flavor from the chili oil and Sichuan peppercorns.

Mapo Tofu

My husband first had mapo tofu when he traveled to China for work and came home raving about it. There was something so magical to him about the soft tofu with the super spicy, tongue-numbing, and complex sauce. I was intimidated to try making it for a very long time but I recently gave it a go. The Sichuan peppercorns are there to not only add their flavor and fragrance to the sauce but also to numb your tongue so it can take all of the heat! I decided to use a recipe I found on Serious Eats and I’m so happy I did because it turned out delicious!  After reading several reviews of the recipe, I decided to use less chili oil in the cooking process but served it on the side so people could add what they wanted to their dish. I also used less tofu (because it’s all I had) but kept everything else the same. We loved having the extra sauce! Be careful when buying your tofu–make sure to get silken tofu that is medium or firm in texture. If the tofu is too soft it will still taste good in this recipe but it won’t have much texture and may dissolve into the sauce. This recipe was fast-paced, super fun to make, and my entire family loved & devoured it, so of course it will be on regular rotation in our house from now on.

Mapo Tofu

How to Make Mapo Tofu

Heat 1 tablespoon of the Sichuan peppercorns in a large deep wok or skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and pound the peppercorns until they are finely ground.

Heat the remaining Sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil in the same wok or skillet over medium-high heat until lightly sizzling. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppercorns from the oil and discard them.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add tofu. Cook for 1 minute then carefully drain, being careful not to break up the tofu.  Side Note: If your tofu is super soft instead of firm or medium, you may want to skip this step and just cook it in the sauce to avoid it from falling apart too much. 

Whisk together the chicken stock, chili bean paste, Xiaoxing wine, and dark soy sauce together in a small bowl; set aside until needed.

Combine cornstarch with two teaspoons of water and mix well; set aside until needed.

Heat the oil that’s in the wok over high heat until smoking. Carefully add the beef and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the chicken broth mixture and bring to a boil. Whisk the cornstarch mixture again then pour it into the boiling sauce and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds until thickened.

Gently add the tofu and carefully fold it into the sauce, being careful not to break it up. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chili oil and half of the scallions and simmer for 30 seconds longer. Carefully transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle the remaining green onions and sprinkle some of the toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns on, to taste. Serve immediately with rice and extra chili oil, sriracha, and toasted peppercorns on the side. Enjoy.

Mapo Tofu

 

Mapo Tofu

Mapo Tofu

Prep Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Course: Main
Cuisine: Asian
Servings: 4
Author: Adapted by Pam - For the Love of Cooking / Original Serious Eats

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, divided
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lb medium to firm silken tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes **Original recipe called for 1½ lbs.
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp fermented chili bean paste
  • 2 tbsp Xioxing wine **Mirin will work too
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ lb ground beef
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • ¼ cup roasted chili oil, divided **Original recipe added all of the oil to the sauce
  • ¼ cup green onions, finely sliced

Instructions

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the Sichuan peppercorns in a large deep wok or skillet over high heat until lightly smoking. Transfer them to a mortar and pestle and pound the peppercorns until they are finely ground. Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining Sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil in the same wok or skillet over medium-high heat until lightly sizzling. Use a slotted spoon to remove the peppercorns from the oil and discard them. Set the wok with oil aside until needed.
  • Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat and add tofu. Cook for 1 minute then carefully drain, being careful not to break up the tofu. 
    Side Note: If your tofu is super soft instead of firm or medium, you may want to skip this step and just cook it in the sauce to avoid it from falling apart too much. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, chili bean paste, Xiaoxing wine, and dark soy sauce together in a small bowl; set aside until needed. 
  • In another small bowl, combine two teaspoons of water with the cornstarch and mix well; set aside until needed.
  • Heat the oil that's in the wok over high heat until smoking. Carefully add the beef and cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds.
  • Add the chicken broth mixture and bring to a boil. Whisk the cornstarch mixture again until well combined then pour it into the boiling sauce and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds until thickened. 
  • Gently add the tofu and carefully fold it into the sauce, being careful not to break it up. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the chili oil and half of the scallions and simmer for 30 seconds longer.
  • Carefully transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle the remaining green onions and sprinkle some of the toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns on, to taste. Serve immediately with rice and extra chili oil and toasted peppercorns on the side. Enjoy.  
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Recipe Rating




6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have been waiting to make this until I could find the silken tofu.
    This silken kind is on a completely different level to me. I actually
    LOVE this!
    The combo of the dark soy (thank goodness there is a good Asian store I can access),
    That specific wine above, Xioxing, and the fermented bean paste (again, thank heaven’s I can shop at an Asian market or I’d be toast here) with the other ingredients makes a dish that is so complex and umami or whatever that word is haaa! that our mouths were having the most delightful party!!!
    Thank you, Pam, once again, for a delicious dinner!!!

    1. Anne,

      I’m glad you gave this one a try! My husband raved about this dish upon his return from business in China. I was scared to try it due to the ingredients but am so glad I did. Thanks for letting me know how it turned out.

      -Pam