Mapo Tofu(麻婆豆腐)Information

Have you heard of mapo tofu? Maybe you have and maybe not. Chances are, if you do not live in Sichuan Province in China, you have not eaten real mapo tofu. If you like spicy food, this dish is for you!

Mapo tofu, or the Chinese 麻婆豆腐, originated in the city of Chengdu(成都)which is the capital of Sichuan Province. The story goes that an elderly woman with the last name Chen had a face with smallpox scars. She owned a restaurant, and sold a dish with tofu, meat, and strong flavorings, with lots of oil, to the workers in the area. It became known as ma po dou fu, meaning “pockmarked old woman’s tofu”. Her descendants own the restaurant Chen Ma Po Dou Fu(陈麻婆豆腐)on Xi Yu Long(西玉龙)(West Yulong/ West Jade Dragon) Street in Chengdu. This spicy, rich dish is made with the flavors of the local region, and has the savory taste of Pi Xian dou ban(郫县豆瓣), a fermented paste of fava beans, dry red “Two Golden Strip” chilies, and salt, coming from Pi County, Chengdu. It also has the flavors of a unique Sichuanese spice, Sichuan peppercorns, hua jiao(花椒), which have a very fragrant and appetizing flavor. It is one of my favorite foods to make and eat.
Actually, I ate it at the Chen Ma Po Dou Fu restaurant last August, when I visited Chengdu. Here are some pictures:

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It was really spicy and yummy 🙂
However, the so-called “mapo tofu” in the USA is usually nothing at all like the one in Chengdu. In fact, it usually tastes like “sweet and sour tofu” instead!
Even though this is true, you do not have to fly all the way to Chengdu to eat this yummy dish. It is really easy to make at home. All you need to do is go to the Chinese supermarket and find a few ingredients. Don’t be afraid of finding them because I’ll give you a guide and pictures! Once you start cooking, you’ll have a yummy pot of mapo tofu in a short time. Look forward to the recipe and ingredients posts in the near future. Thanks for reading!

(this part added later) I know that most Americans cannot stand tofu, viewing it as “bland”, “health food”, “only for vegetarians”, “weird”, “disgusting”, and the list goes on. However, Chinese food with tofu is usually not any of the above. In fact, I believe mapo tofu is none of the above.
1. Bland? No, it is really spicy, salty, and makes your mouth numb when you eat it. Of course plain tofu is bland, but the Sichuanese love strong flavors.
2. Health food? No, it is extremely high in sodium and fat (1/2 cup oil for the traditional!). It does have a lot of protein though. I don’t recommend eating mapo tofu often because of its extremely high sodium contents, and that it wastes your cooking oil. Also, it’s hard to eat without a lot of rice…
3. Vegetarian? No, it has pork or beef in it. It can be modified to be vegetarian, but the vegetarian version does not taste nearly as good (sorry vegetarians).
4. Weird? Maybe- if you’ve never had real Chinese food.
5. Disgusting? I believe not!

Recipe
Ingredients, part 1
Ingredients, part 2

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3 thoughts on “Mapo Tofu(麻婆豆腐)Information

    1. Wow! a comment on my first post, hehe

      I won’t have a special dinner on actual New Year Eve because it’s a weekday 😦
      Also, I’m quite busy this weekend and I’m going to the Chinese supermarket and restaurants tomorrow in San Gabriel 🙂
      but I still might make a simple Chinese New Year Eve dinner tomorrow 🙂
      or just eat an equivalent at a restaurant, lol

      Chinese people eat special dinner always on New Year’s Eve called nian ye fan (literally “year night food”). This meal has many many many many components. In Northern China, they always eat boiled jiaozi (dumplings filled with meat and vegetables, pronounced “djyall dzz”) as a part. In Southern China, nian gao (sticky rice cake, pronounced “nyehn gall”) is either. In the Shanghai region the nian gao is a round cylinder which is sliced and stir-fried. In the Guangdong region, they eat a steamed sweet nian gao as a dessert and also a steamed savory daikon gao. Throughout China, many dishes are considered lucky. Every household eats a whole fish, because 年年有余 (every year have surplus [money]) sounds the same as 年年有鱼 (every year have fish). There are also other dishes. I may make a simple (compared to one in China) New Year’s Eve Dinner tomorrow. In China, people watch the Spring Festival Night Gala on TV all over the country while eating and partying and at midnight, a billion fireworks and firecrackers go off everywhere.
      Just some more culture 🙂
      I could make a post on it if I had time..

    2. I was going to make 斋 (Buddha’s delight, but literally “Vegetarian Food” LOL but it doesn’t have to be vegetarian since it can have oysters) which is always eaten on the New Year’s Day in Cantonese households but the 发菜 (“hair vegetable”, a type of bacteria that grows in long, thin, black colonies in the desert of inner mongolia, when dried looks exactly like hair. the name “hair vegetable” sounds very similar to the phrase “become prosperous” (发财) so it is eaten on New Year. LOL actually I think the Chinese are the ONLY people who eat bacteria on purpose!!) costs too much! $18.88 when ON SALE for a small-ish amount. (normally $23) They cost even more than the dried oysters used in the recipe ($11). I also needed dried tofu skin sticks (腐竹 “curd bamboo”) which cost a reasonable amount ($1.50) so I bought it and I have dried mung bean starch noodles (粉丝 “powder thread”) which are like $1.50 for 12 packs, lol. I already have dried shiitake, dried cloud ears, dried tiger lily flowers. Also ginkgo nuts/fruits (which aren’t nuts or fruits) which are not used often in my kitchen. So I ended up not buying the hair vegetable, dried oysters, or ginkgo nuts. Actually I was planning to make a vegan version without oysters (although it still has oyster sauce..), and a cost-effective version without hair vegetable (and almost bacteria-free version lol). I was also planning to use canned ginkgo instead of fresh cause it’s too annoying to peel, hehe. But they didn’t have any. So I might just make the dish with 1/2 the normal ingredients, oh well.

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