Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a tofu and meat dish cooked in a spicy chilli bean sauce. It is a popular dish in Sichuan (Szechuan) cuisine. The dish packs a fiery savoury punch and we always needed more rice than usual to enjoy all of the spicy sauce.
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The sauce has a numbing and lip-stinging effect depending on how much Sichuan pepper (picture above) is added, so in the home cooked version, this numbness can be toned up and down to suit your preference. I never imagined that cooking this dish at home can be so cheap and easy. I have cooked this dish so often that I can now make it in about 20 minutes from preparation to end.
The name of the dish (source: Wiki) literally translates to “Pockmarked-Face Lady’s Tofu” – where legend tells of the pockmarked-face lady who ran an inn on the outskirts of the city selling this popular dish. Another plausible but less widely acceptable explanation for the name is that the word “Ma” (麻) relates to the numbing effect of the Sichuan pepper used to cook this dish.