How to make Mapo Tofu, a Sichuan-Chinese dish of tofu braised in a spicy minced meat gravy.
Mapo Tofu is not a typical Chinese-Singaporean food, but it’s the one dish that I make very often at home. I love it for the bold and spicy flavours that go so amazingly well with some rice. It is also deceptively easy to make!
Mapo Tofu is a Sichuan dish of soft tofu in a spicy and savoury minced meat gravy made with doubanjiang, or spicy Chinese bean paste.
What Type of Tofu to Use for Mapo Tofu
I like to use silken, soft tofu, and I highly recommend you do. The soft tofus go so great with the spicy gravy, almost melting into it. I’ve tried to use firm tofu, and it’s ok, but definitely a better eating experience with the melty soft tofu.
To prepare the soft tofu, you want to slice the tofu into cubes – which should be very easy with a knife.
Alternative to Doubanjiang: Taucheo
Doubanjiang is a spicy bean paste used in Chinese cooking. It’s very easy to purchase ready-made in supermarkets these days.
I don’t always have Doubanjiang at home! Instead I prefer to use Taucheo, which is an ingredient I have at home, and is a staple ingredient in Singapore cuisine. A couple dishes that use Taucheo include Mee Siam Goreng and Mee Rebus.
Taucheo is salted soybeans, so it has that similar bean umami flavour that the doubanjiang provides for the dish.
To use Taucheo in place of Doubanjiang, simply mash the taucheo to a paste. For the spice, I added some spicy chilli flakes, adjusted to your spice tolerance. Add the spicy taucheo at the same step that you would add the doubanjiang.
Types of Chillies to use for Mapo Tofu
For Mapo Tofu, I used two types of chillies:
- Dried Chillies – to give a delicious, toasty spice. You can use authentic Sichuan dried chillies, but I use regular spur Dried Chillies that I use for my everyday cooking, such as to make Dried Chilli Paste.
- Bird’s Eye Chillies – for some actual spicy heat. Dried chillies are spicy, but it’s definitely mild.
To prepare the dried chillies, I simply give the dried chillies a rinse, and cut it into smaller pieces. The same goes for the bird’s eye chillies.
Mapo Tofu taste the best if you use Chilli Oil – I have recipe for it here. In this recipe, I faked an instant chilli oil, since not everyone will have chilli oil – which can take hours to infuse – at the ready. To do this, we toast the chillies over low heat to infuse the oil with flavour.
In the recipe, I toasted the chillies first to do a couple of things:
- Fake the chilli oil! The chillies will infuse the oil with some spice and flavour. Alternatively, you can use your own chilli oil in place of this for an even quicker dish.
- To toast the chillies so that it does not burn. You do not want to burn the dried chillies especially, as it will lead to bitter chillies. If you are using chilli oil, you only need to toast the dried chillies over medium heat until it releases a smell.
How to Toast Sichuan Peppercorns
I love adding Sichuan Peppercorns for that addictively numbing sensation. To prepare, you will need to dry toast the peppercorns first to unleash the flavours.
To a dry pan, add the sichuan peppercorns. Toast them over low heat, making sure to stir or swirl your pan to move the peppercorns around so as to not burn them.
Once the fragrance releases, your peppercorns are ready for use. There will be some fun popping sounds from the peppercorn too. You will also see a layer of oil develop on the surface of the peppercorns.
Grind the peppercorns to a powder with a spice grinder, or a pestle and mortar. Without dry toasting, the spices will not grind easily and finely too, so do not skip this step.
More Recipes Like This
If you like this recipe, you might enjoy these too:
- Easy Kung Pao Chicken Stir Fry
- Kung Pao Chicken Bake
- Spicy Cumin Beef Stir Fry
- Spicy Cumin Beef Noodles
- How to make my easy go-to Chilli Oil
Mapo TofuCourse: Recipes
1 pack (300g) Silken Soft Tofu
1/4 cup Oil
3-4 Dried Red Chillies, sliced
1 Bird’s Eye Chillies, sliced
1 tbsp Ground Sichuan Peppercorns
1 tbsp Ginger, grated
1 tbsp Garlic, minced
150g Ground Beef (or minced meat of choice)
1 tbsp Doubanjiang*
1/2 cup Chicken Stock**
Cornstarch Slurry of 1 tsp Cornstarch + 1-2 tbsps water (Prepare extra, if needed)
1-2 stalks of Spring Onions, chopped
- To a cold pan, add oil and dried chillies and bird’s eye chillies. Turn on the heat to a low, and allow the chillies to slowly toast and infuse the oil. Stir occasionally, so as to not burn the chillies. Toast for about 5 minutes, or until the chillies are fragrant, and the oil has developed a deeper colour. Take the chillies off the oil and keep to one side for use later.
- Turn the heat up to a medium to high, and add the grated ginger and garlic. Saute till fragrant.
- Once fragrant, add the minced meat and stir to combine. Allow the meat to cook.
- Once cooked, add doubanjiang and chicken stock. Stir to combine and allow the mixture to come to a boil.
- Once it boils, add back the toasted chillies, ground sichuan peppercorns and cornstarch slurry. Stir through to combine and allow the gravy to thicken. If it is not thickening, add more of the cornstarch slurry.
- Once the gravy thickens, gently add the soft tofu cubes. Stir gently to coat the soft tofu. Allow the mixture to come to a boil again.
- Once boiling, garnish with spring onions or scallions. Mapo Tofu is done!
- *Replace with 1 tbsp Taucheo or Salted Soybeans + 1 tsp Chilli Flakes
- **I used salted stock. If using unsalted stock or water, you might need to add salt or soy sauce to season.