Spicy mapo tofu is one of the classics of the real local Chinese cuisine. Available almost everywhere in China, this fiery dish is coming from the province of Sichuan, famous for its spicy fare and the Sichuan peppercorns, which are obviously also featuring in this dish. Tofu can be infused with all sorts of flavours but even when bathed in this spicy sauce, it is still fairly mild and thus complementing all the chilis on the plate. One of my favourite Chinese meals!
Mapo Tofu for some odd reason literally means “pockmarked old woman beancurd”. Many Chinese dishes have flowery names, rooted somewhere in their long history. This one in real life has nothing to do with pockmarks, is eaten by young and old, and is fairly easy to make. Apart from Sichuan peppercorns, you don’t even need a whole lot of exotic ingredients. Even the amount of chopping you need to do is limited for Chinese cuisine standards. If you love spicy food, you will love this dish.
Tofu soft or firm
A word about the ingredients: The tofu you use can be firm or soft – both are used in China to make mapo tofu. Just be extra careful when using the soft stuff. The chili paste is for taste as well as colour. Red. And fiery. It also contains salt, so be careful when seasoning. If you can get your hands on chili bean paste, grab it! This is the really authentic stuff, and it can be hard to find. It contains slightly salted beans which give the dish an additional zing. But if not available, traditional red chili paste does the trick as well.
We fry our Chinese spicy tofu with rapeseed oil, but many locals use homemade pork lard and swear it tastes even better. If you like that idea and have some lard at hand, why not try it and let me know how it worked! I also use minced beef instead of the traditional pork, as I prefer the taste of beef. Feel free to use minced pork instead for extra juiciness.
Serve your Chinese spicy tofu with cauliflower rice – either by itself or as part of a larger dinner with several dishes (more to come up in this blog, so watch out). Zip on a beer or plenty of lemon-infused soda water to wash down the spice!
Spicy mapo tofu also goes well alongside the clean, healthy and less spicy quick stir-fried broccoli with garlic!
Another great thing is that you can easily change this dish into a vegetarian/vegan meal by exchanging the beef for the same amount of finely cut brown mushrooms such as champignons or shiitake mushrooms. Prepare the dish in the same way as described in the recipe and add the mushrooms when you would otherwise add the meat.
Zero waste tip
You like spicy oil? So you can reuse the one you use for frying your chilis and Sichuan pepper! Easy: After frying those chilis and Sichuan peppercorns in your first recipe step, just drain them over a small bowl and let the oil drip down into it. That way you create chili oil for other meals you’d like to spice up. In a sealed glass jar, it lasts for days.
Spicy tofu from China! Soft and delicious tofu cubes immersed in a fiery sauce full of chili, Sichuan pepper and a little bit of minced beef.
Serving 2 as a full meal or more as part of a Chinese dinner
400g tofu, cubed
50g minced beef (you can also use pork)
1 tbsp chili paste (or chili bean paste if available)
2 mid-sized dried chilies, chopped and deseeded – reduce if you prefer a milder taste, or use 4 (for 2 servings) if you like it fiery hot
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1–2 sprigs of spring onion, chopped – white and green parts separated
1 tsp dark soy sauce or tamari
rapeseed oil for frying
water for boiling tofu, and 100ml water to add to the sauce
- Put oil to medium heat in a wok, and quickly fry the Sichuan peppercorns and 5 dried chilies until fragrant. This will be quick, be careful not to burn them. Set aside to cool. Then, chop into fine pieces.
- Swipe the wok clean and bring salted water to the boil on medium heat. You need enough water to cover the tofu cubes. Carefully slip in the tofu and cook them for 2-3 minutes. Not too long! Drain and set aside.
- Dry the wok and put it on low heat, adding oil. Add the ginger, white parts of spring onion and minced meat with a pinch of salt. Stir-fry for a few minutes,. Then push the mix to the side, and add another dollop of oil in the center. Stir in the remaining chilies and the chili paste. Mix well and add the garlic and your previously fried Sichuan pepper-chili mix. Mix well and keep the heat low.
- Stir in about 100ml of water and then add the tofu cubes to the wok. Stir a bit and add a teaspoon of soy sauce or tamari.
- Bring to the boil again briefly and then immediately reduce the heat. Keep simmering tofu a short while to reduce the water. Try and add a bit more soy sauce if you need more umami. Done!
- Fill tofu to a deep serving plate and sprinkle with green parts of the spring onion. Serve with cauliflower rice.
Sub beef for the same amount of finely chopped brown mushrooms (brown champignons or shiitake mushrooms) for a vegetarian/vegan meal! Prepare it in exactly the same fashion by adding the mushrooms when you’d otherwise add the meat.
- Category: meals
- Method: stir fry and simmer
- Cuisine: Chinese
- Serving Size: 1 portion
- Calories: 350
- Fat: 25.7g
- Carbohydrates: 8.3g net carbs
- Protein: 24.1g