Have you ever wonder why “mapo tofu” is one of the most popular Sichuan dish among the Chinese around the world? It is a simple classic dish that has been consumed for centuries!
It looks like a simple dish using only a few basic ingredients yet it is packed with different flavours and textures that leaves you asking for more. You would think such a simple dish is created by a trained chef with amazing culinary skills and ingenuity, transforming a humble bland tofu (or bean curd) into something that is so delicious and flavoursome. But this was not the case and there are stories supporting evidence that mapo tofu first existed in Sichuan province, China hundreds of years ago as a comfort food warming the hearts of many Chinese.
I believe mapo tofu was originally a vegetarian dish. Although I have only eaten a meat version of mapo tofu at restaurants and in the past I have only cooked my own mapo tofu using pork mince. This time, I have tried a vegetarian version using some “mock meat” made from wheats. It is a winner and the texture is so much more interesting than eating a meat version of mapo tofu. You can check out my video below. If you are new to my YouTube channel, it is free to subscribe so you don’t miss out on anything. For a full written recipe so you can print out if you want, scroll to the bottom of the page.
If you are interested to know more about the story behind mapo tofu, I have a video on my YouTube channel.
- 1 packet of medium-firm tofu
- vegetarian mock meat (from packet) or mushrooms if you prefer
- about 2-3 inches block of fresh ginger
- 3 spring onions
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground Sichuan peppercorn
- 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
- 1 tablespoon Sichuan fermented broad bean chili paste also known as Pixian Douban
- 1-2 tablespoons chili oil to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons light soy to taste
- 1/2 tablespoons sugar to taste
- a bit of corn starch mixed with water to thicken the gravy. Although the mock meat may already have starch in it. Thicken the sauce if necessary to your preference
- 1-2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup cooking oil
- Boil a pot of water first
- Slice the tofu into smaller cubes
- Once water is boiled, turn the heat down to low. Immerse the tofu into the hot water and let sit for 5-10 minutes to cook and tenderise the tofu. This will make the tofu firmer and prevent the tofu from breaking apart
- Remove the tofu and let rest before using in the final dish
- While tofu is being cooked in the hot water, prepare the garlic, ginger and spring onions by cutting them finely
- Heat a wok with some cooking oil
- Once oil is warm, toss in the ginger first. Fry for a minute or two before adding both the garlic and spring onions. Continue to stir fry the ingredients until aromatic but not burnt
- Add the Sichuan chili paste. Mix through and stir fry for a minute. Then add the Chinese cooking wine, light soy and sugar
- Next add the vegetarian mock meat. Mix through with the other ingredients and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes
- Add vegetable stock. Turn up the heat until it starts to boil then turn it back down to medium-low
- Add the tofu. Be gentle and mix tofu through. Do not keep flipping and stirring at this time to prevent tofu from breaking
- Add corn starch water only if you prefer your sauce to thicken. Traditionally mapo tofu has a thick gravy sauce. It is a preference taste
- Finally add the sichuan pepper and a little more chili oil (if you prefer a spicier sauce)
- Plate the mapo tofu by garnishing with some chopped spring onions
- It pairs well with a bowl of steamed rice