The idea for this recipe actually started from watching an anime. A cooking anime to be specific (yes I’m a weeb). One of the top chefs made mapo tofu at his restaurant to outstanding success. The customers couldn’t stop eating it. But why? He explained that the foundation of this dish is two different kinds of spice, which are fundamental to Szechuan cuisine; ma and la.
La is the one we are all familiar with, chilies, jalapeños, habañeros. In a word, hotness. But ma is completely different, and I had never experienced it before this dish. Ma is a numbing spice that comes specifically from the szechaun peppercorn. It tingles on your lips, almost like that lollipop they use at the dentist on your gums. Unlike the dentist, you never lose feeling entirely.
I was helpless against its powerMe
That’s why the customers in the show couldn’t stop eating mapo tofu, and if I’m being honest, I was helpless against its power as well. The tickling of your lips with every bite is in duel with the spiciness attacking the inside of your mouth. It’s almost masochistic in a way (don’t worry it’s not super spicy, I’m a wimp when it comes to spice).
Now that we covered the science behind it, I’m sure you noticed the ground meat in the dish. Why meat in a tofu dish? The fat from the meat really amplifies the flavor here. Oil and fat help to spread the spice through the dish and onto your tongue. Of course, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, I think you could make it without. I haven’t done it though, so I can’t promise it will be the same.
Oh, and before I forget, serve this dish over a bowl of white rice. That rice really soaks up the flavor, and will also make sure that you don’t eat the whole thing by yourself in one sitting. If you want more Chinese food, try my pork bao from Pixar’s Bao! Or, if you want another spicy dish, try this spicy sichuan boiled beef from Woks of Life.
- 1 large skillet
Marinate the Pork
- ¾ lb ground pork
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tsp Chinese cooking wine
- 4 cloves garlic diced
- 1 inch ginger diced
- 4 green onions diced
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tbsp fermented chili bean paste
- 1 tsp fermented black beans in chili oil optional
- 4 dried chili peppers sliced
- 1 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns crush half
- 1.25 cups chicken broth
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 block tofu diced
- 1.5 tbsp corn starch
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 cups white rice
- Combine pork, salt, sesame oil, and cooking wine in a mixing bowl. Leave it on the counter while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- Add canola oil to skillet and heat up on medium. Once hot, add pork and cook until no longer pink. Take pork out of skillet and put it aside.
- You should probably start cooking the rice now.
- Add fermented chili bean paste and black beans (optional) to skillet and fry for 1 minute.
- Add the garlic, ginger, half of the green onion, and dried chili peppers. Cook for 4 minutes, or until onions are starting to get translucent.
- Add chicken broth and peppercorns, turn heat up to medium-high, wait for it to boil.
- Add tofu and pork. Cook for 8 minutes, don't stir too much before this or tofu can break.
- Add sugar and soy sauce.
- Mix water and corn starch in separate bowl and stir into the mapo tofu
- Garnish with the other half of the diced green onion. Serve over white rice.