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Mapo Tofu | The Splendid Desk

Picture: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Makes 4 servings

Energetic time 20 minutes

Complete length 20 minutes

That is it. My favourite dish on the earth and the grandmother of Sichuan delicacies. Actually translated as “grandmother’s pock-marked tofu”, its totally apocryphal origin story is an identical to half a dozen different meals origin tales: it begins with hungry crowds and a cook dinner with few substances however numerous creativity. The result’s an affordable stew that makes use of easy substances—​gentle tofu, floor meat (historically beef, however typically pork), fermented chili bean paste, a handful of Szechuan peppercorns, and loads of chili pepper oil—​to create

The Wok book cover

The Wok: Recipes and Strategies
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

a easy and reassuring kitchen.

I grew up with the candy and salty and heavy model of mapo tofu that my mom ready for us. When paired with their handmade beef balls, this was by far my favourite meal. Since then, I’ve eaten mapo tofu in every single place, from Chinese language take-out eating places in Manhattan to the spring in Chengdu.

I very not often get visibly enthusiastic about something – I do not know if that makes me a stoic or impassive shell of a human being – however as we sat at Chen Mapo Doufu, the high-end establishment from Chengdu which is alleged to have been constructed on the celebrity and recipe of Grandma Chen herself, I used to be a bit dizzy.

Yow will discover mapo tofu on the menu of just about any restaurant in China, particularly in Sichuan, however this model, served in a searing forged iron bowl, was simply my favourite. Tender cubes of chewy tofu tossed with tender floor beef below a effervescent layer of chili oil, flavored with roasted Szechuan pepper and fermented faba beans. It did not have the blast of Chilean warmth one would anticipate when it. Relatively, it has a extra delicate, layered warmth with chiles that alternately seem candy and scorching with the wealthy, virtually raisin-like taste of dried fruit.

I am comfortable to say that the very best model I’ve had within the US, made by Zhang Wenxue, a Sichuan chef at Fuloon, in Malden, Massachusetts (I imagine it has since closed), tastes virtually good – much like Chen’s. I am even happier to report that he was sort sufficient to share his strategies and recipe with me a number of years in the past, and I’ve modified it little or no through the years. The one factor I modified was the way in which I deal with the tofu. Historically, tofu is boiled briefly in water earlier than being added to stew. I’ve all the time heard this defined as “to take away the flavour from uncooked beans”. Having tasted it facet by facet, I by no means seen a distinction, so personally I am skipping the step, though I would not thoughts if you wish to pre-boil your tofu.

There’s nothing troublesome in regards to the method besides to watch out as soon as you’ve got added the tofu to not break it up by stirring too vigorously. In case you can combine with out utensils, do it. Alternatively, fastidiously slide a wok spatula below the tofu and switch it gently whereas cooking. As soon as the substances are ready, the recipe takes a complete of 10 minutes on the range.


  • 1 tablespoon (8 g) Sichuan pink peppercorns

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) groundnut, rice bran or different impartial oil

  • 1 teaspoon (3g) cornstarch

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) chilly water

  • 4 ounces (120 g) floor beef or pork

  • 2 teaspoons (5g) minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)

  • 2 teaspoons (5g) minced contemporary ginger (about ½ inch phase)

  • 2 tablespoons (30 g) fermented chili bean paste (doubanjiang)

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) Shaoxing wine

  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) darkish soy sauce

  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) gentle soy sauce

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) do-it-yourself or store-bought low-sodium hen broth or water

  • 1½ kilos medium-to-firm silken tofu, minimize into ½-inch cubes

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) do-it-yourself or store-bought chili oil

  • 3 inexperienced onions, sliced

  • Steamed rice, for serving


Warmth half the Sichuan peppercorns in a big wok over excessive warmth till frivolously smoking. Switch to a mortar and pestle. Beat till finely floor and put aside.

Add the remaining Szechuan peppercorns and oil to the wok. Warmth over medium-​excessive warmth till frivolously scorching, about 1 ½ minutes. Take away the peppercorns with a spider and discard them, leaving the oil within the pan.

Mix cornstarch and chilly water in a small bowl and stir with a fork till properly blended. Put apart.

Warmth remaining oil in wok over excessive warmth till smoking. Add beef and cook dinner, stirring always, for 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and cook dinner till aromatic, about 15 seconds. Add the chili bean paste and cook dinner till the oil begins to show pink, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, soy sauce and hen broth and convey to a boil. Pour within the cornstarch combination and cook dinner for 30 seconds, till thickened. Add the tofu and gently fold it in, being cautious to not break it up an excessive amount of. Stir within the chili oil and half the inexperienced onions and simmer for 30 seconds extra. Instantly switch to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the remaining scallions and toasted floor Sichuan pepper. Serve instantly with steamed rice.

Recipe and picture of The Wok: Recipes and Strategies. Copyright © 2022 by J. Kenji López-Alt. Reproduced with permission from WW Norton & Firm, Inc. All rights reserved.

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