Mapo Tofu is easily one of our top five favourite foods of all time.
Mapo is from Chengdu, the capital of China's Sichuan province. If you'd like to learn more, we thought the New York Times did a good job summarizing the origin story of Mapo Tofu - it's an interesting starting point, at the very least!
The good news is our take on Mapo requires very little prep, and is ready in under 30 minutes.
- 1 pack of soft tofu
- 2 tbsp doubanjiang (Sichuan bean paste - see notes)
- 100g ground pork
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 4 tbsp Hakka-ish Chili Crisp
- ½ cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp Chinkiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar - see notes)
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 scallion
- 1 cup jasmine rice (or whatever rice you have in a pinch!)
- 1-2 tsp of Ooomami Seasoning Salt (optional)
- Bring a pot of water to a boil with the salt. Cut the tofu into ½ inch cubes and gently place in the water. Simmer the tofu for 2 minutes, and gently remove with a slotted spoon. This slightly firms up the tofu so it’s less likely to break apart during the cooking process, and it also seasons the tofu.
- Heat a pan or wok over a high heat, and add the oil. Chop the garlic, add to the pan with the ground pork. Break it apart and stir it while it cooks. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until a little browned and cooked through, and add the bean paste. Turn the heat to medium and cook this for approx 2 minutes, you’ll know it’s ready when the oil separates. Add the soy, Hakka-ish, Vinegar, and stock, and bring to a boil.
- Gently add the tofu, and gently stir it together. You’ll have to be careful stirring now, as you don’t want to break up the tofu. Cook it for 2-3 minutes, this allows the tofu to absorb some of the sauce.
- Rinse the rice, put in a pot and add enough water to cover it by approx 1/2 an inch. Bring to a boil, cover, cook for 10 mins. Remove from the heat, set aside with the lid on. Or use a rice cooker, you do you.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in a little bit of water, and add it to the pan. Instead of stirring, sort of swirl the pan to mix the cornstarch into the sauce. Bring back to a boil to thicken the sauce, and cook for a further minute. Taste for seasoning, but store bought stocks are usually quite salty, so it’s probably okay.
- Garnish with sliced scallion, and a few more drizzles of Hakka-ish if you’re feeling spicy. To serve, spoon it onto the steamed jasmine rice and top with a sprinkle of Ooomami. So. Good.
Notes: Doubanjiang or sometimes more specifically Pixian Doubanjiang is one of the key ingredients in Mapo Tofu, so technically without it, you're probably making Mapo-ish Tofu. Doubanjiang is available in most Asian supermarkets, and might be labelled "broad bean paste". If you can’t find it, the umami of Hakka-ish does a good job in subbing in that earthiness, but it’s definitely worth trying to get your hands on some.
Don't have Chinkiang vinegar? While not traditional, you can use whatever vinegar you have, it's important to get some acidity in there.
Make it vegan: Omit the ground pork, or replace it with finely diced king oyster mushrooms if you’re feeling fancy.