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Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

Ma Po Tofu is a Sichuan specialty. There are many versions of the Ma Po Tofu recipe. This pictorial is my interpretation of it.

Dedicated to SuzySushi.

Picture of the finished dish:

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Serving Suggestion: 3 to 4

Preparations

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Main ingredients: (From upper right, clockwise) 1/2 to 3/4 pound of ground pork, 2 stalks of green onions, 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, 5 to 6 small dried red chilies, ginger (about 1 inch in length), Sichuan peppercorn powder, 2 packs of silken (soft) tofu, 16 oz each.

Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian. I like to use silken tofu for its soft and smooth texture. You may use firm tofu or regular tofu if you like. Roasting and grinding whole sichuan peppercorn is the best if you have time. I use Sichuan peppercorn powder for convenience.

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Marinating the ground pork: Use a mixing bowl. Add the ground pork. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of ground white pepper, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tsp of corn starch, 1 tsp of light soy sauce, and 1 tsp of ShaoHsing cooking wine.

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Mix all the ingredients. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.

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Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the green onions. Finely chop. Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the ginger. Cut up the dried red chilies into 1/2 inch pieces.

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Open the tofu packages. Use a small knief to make roughly 3x4 cross cuts. These silken tofu will break apart during cooking. No need to take them out of the box for cutting.

Cooking Instructions:

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Use a wok/pan, set stove to high temperature. Wait until pan is hot. Add a generous 3 to 4 tblsp of cooking oil. Velvet the ground pork until cooked, about 5 minutes.

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Use the spatula to cut up the lumps of the ground pork. Try to break up the pork as much as you can. Remove the pork and drain the oil with a strainer.

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Start with a clean wok/pan, set stove to high temperature. Add 2 to 3 tblsp of cooking oil. Wait until oil starts fuming. Add cut dried red chilies. They will turn black very quickly. You need to act fast.

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Add minced garlic and grated ginger. Add 2 tsp of chili bean sauce, 4 to 5 tsp of hoisin sauce, perhaps 1 to 2 tsp of brown bean sauce too. Stir. Dash in 2 tsp of ShaoHsing cooking wine and 1 tsp of white vinegar. (Optional: add some chili sauce if you like it hot and spicy. No need to add salt because the chili bean sauce and chicken broth are already salty, or you may add a pinch of salt to taste.)

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Stir well and let the sauce/garlic/ginger cook for 10 to 15 seconds under high heat.

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Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 2 tsp of sugar.

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Bring the mixture to a boil. Fold in corn starch slurry (suggest: 1 to 2 tsp of corn starch and 1/8 cup of water) to thicken the sauce to the right consistency.

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Add the 2 packages of tofu. After you put in the tofu, minimize the stirring. Silken tofu breaks apart very easily.

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Wait until the mixture boils again.

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Finally, re-add the ground pork. Add the chopped green onions. Add 1 to 2 tsp of ground Sichuan peppercorn powder. Stir and mix. Cook for another 2 minutes or so. Finished.

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The finished dish. The quantity of food made in this recipe is about twice the portion shown in this picture.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I'll have to pick up some chili bean sauce. Which brand do you recommend?

They are very generic. I have used chili bean sauce from different makes and they tasted about the same. Currently I am using a jar from "Master". Not a very well known brand. Hope you can find it. If not, just any brand you can find.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian.

Do you mean in use pressed tofu as a pork substitute in addition to the silken tofu (ie 2 kinds of tofu in the dish)? Woul you treat the pressed tofu in exactly the same way as the pork (marinate, fry, drain)?

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Do you mean in use pressed tofu as a pork substitute in addition to the silken tofu (ie 2 kinds of tofu in the dish)? Woul you treat the pressed tofu in exactly the same way as the pork (marinate, fry, drain)?

Yes. 2 kinds of tofu to have a contrast on the texture - one extra firm, one silken soft.

You can treat the pressed tofu (dice into small cubes) exactly as the pork if you like - skip the corn starch and cooking wine in marination (taste better with it browned slightly). Or you may add it as is.

Of course, you would use vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This looks incredibly good. I have had this dish a few times in various places, but what I had in one particular restaurant (don't laugh--in Poughkeepsie, New York) was divine, and the memory has stuck with me--a perfect soul-soothing juxtaposition of smooth velvety tofu and sweet pork.

Now thanks to your clear instructions, I can make some.

Jennifer Brizzi

Author of "Ravenous," a food column for Ulster Publishing (Woodstock Times, Kingston Times, Dutchess Beat etc.) and the food blog "Tripe Soup"

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Looks utterly delicious! I just made some the other day as well. I love Ma Po Tofu (so does our toddler).

I sometimes add a tablespoon of red miso to the pork marinade, really adds a different flavor to the dish (all good).

Thanks for sharing the pics and tips! Fantastic!

"Live every moment as if your hair were on fire" Zen Proverb

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Is chili bean sauce tobanjan? I've always wanted to make this at home, but I could never figure out which was chili bean sauce (as labelled in Japan). I wonder if Japanese chili bean sauce is different from chinese chili bean sauce...hmmm...I may have to wait till a trip to Singapore to pick up the ingredients!

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I have always used tonbanjian for mapodofu and anything else that calls for Chinese chile paste.

I have tried a couple different brands Lee Kum Kee one that is marketed for Japan, it is a little different than the American one... :hmmm:

Thank you Ah Leung! this is one of my favorites!!

One place in the US where I used to eat it weekly included salted black beans in the sauce, is this some kind of regional variation?

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian.

Do you mean in use pressed tofu as a pork substitute in addition to the silken tofu (ie 2 kinds of tofu in the dish)? Woul you treat the pressed tofu in exactly the same way as the pork (marinate, fry, drain)?

For a meat substitute you can used dry textured vegetable protein. When it is rehydrated, it has the texture of ground meat

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Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian.

Do you mean in use pressed tofu as a pork substitute in addition to the silken tofu (ie 2 kinds of tofu in the dish)? Woul you treat the pressed tofu in exactly the same way as the pork (marinate, fry, drain)?

For a meat substitute you can used dry textured vegetable protein. When it is rehydrated, it has the texture of ground meat

Straight age or age tofu http://www2.nsknet.or.jp/~tofu/gif/age.gif works very well as a meat sub as well. I've used age tofu as a sub in gyoza, wontons, etc..

"Live every moment as if your hair were on fire" Zen Proverb

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Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian.

Do you mean in use pressed tofu as a pork substitute in addition to the silken tofu (ie 2 kinds of tofu in the dish)? Woul you treat the pressed tofu in exactly the same way as the pork (marinate, fry, drain)?

For a meat substitute you can used dry textured vegetable protein. When it is rehydrated, it has the texture of ground meat

Straight age or age tofu http://www2.nsknet.or.jp/~tofu/gif/age.gif works very well as a meat sub as well. I've used age tofu as a sub in gyoza, wontons, etc..

Thanks for the suggestions, I'm going to keep an eye out for age tofu now. I've used TVP before, but I'm not that wild about it - I was going to explain why, but I can't really think of a good reason, except that I don't really like it …

Cutting the lemon/the knife/leaves a little cathedral:/alcoves unguessed by the eye/that open acidulous glass/to the light; topazes/riding the droplets,/altars,/aromatic facades. - Ode to a Lemon, Pablo Neruda

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Thanks for your recipe! I love all of your pictorials. I've always been looking for a good version of ma po tofu ever since watching Iron Chef Chen make it several times. The local take out version leave a lot ot be desired & I haven't been able to decide on a good recipe. I'll definitely be trying your version soon.

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tried this recipe out last night with LightLife's vegetarian soy sausage tube. one word: awsome. if you plan on using this for the meat, heat it up in some oil, break down into crumbled pieces, and take out REALLY fast...like...2 minutes at most. this stuff cooks really fast because there is no raw meat. its the best meat-like substitute i can find, and it does the job well.

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I have always used tonbanjian for mapodofu and anything else that calls for Chinese chile paste.

I have tried a couple different brands Lee Kum Kee one that is marketed for Japan, it is a little different than the American one... :hmmm:

Thank you Ah Leung! this is one of my favorites!!

One place in the US where I used to eat it weekly included salted black beans in the sauce, is this some kind of regional variation?

The original Sichuan version usually has black beans in it.

regards,

trillium

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Is chili bean sauce tobanjan?  I've always wanted to make this at home, but I could never figure out which was chili bean sauce (as labelled in Japan).  I wonder if Japanese chili bean sauce is different from chinese chili bean sauce...

I don't know Japanese nor Korean. I think tobanjan and chili bean sauce (in Mandarin it is "Dou Ban Jiang") are the same or very similar. They may differ slightly in taste. Chili bean sauce is a very common cooking sauce for Chinese food. I hope you don't need to wait to go to Singapore to get it. :smile:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This looks incredibly good. I have had this dish a few times in various places, but what I had in one particular restaurant (don't laugh--in Poughkeepsie, New York) was divine, and the memory  has stuck with me--a perfect soul-soothing juxtaposition of smooth velvety tofu and sweet pork.

:blink::shock::unsure::smile:

Which restaurant?

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Mr. Leung, Mapodoufu is one of my favorite spicy pork and doufu dishes. :wink:

I make mine almost exactly the same way...except I add back the pork before the doufu and let it simmer a while. And I leave out the hoisin sauce, and almost hate to put any sugar at all. I suspect the sugar will somehow smother the fire from the chilis.

Gently bathing the dried chilis in warm oil (I typically use around 20-30) will minimize the fumes and the sneezing and coughing that follow on from.

Edited by Laksa (log)
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Gently bathing the dried chilis in warm oil (I typically use around 20-30) will minimize the fumes and the sneezing and coughing that follow on from.

Good tips. I will try your method next time and observe the difference. I wish my stove burner can go from 0 to 60 in 1 second like the restaurant's.

But as far as the chilis... I will for sure risk a divorce if I use more than 10. :laugh:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Thanks to everyone for this thread and to Ah Leung for the great pictorial and recipe. Ma Pa Tofu is also one of my favorite dishes. I need to make this at home! I'll report back once I do.

I also like Hunan Eggplant with Spicy Pork Sauce which in some ways is similar to Ma Pa Tofu in texture and taste. I start the dish from a recipe in Tropp's "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking".

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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  And I leave out the hoisin sauce, and almost hate to put any sugar at all.  I suspect the sugar will somehow smother the fire from the chilis.

Gently bathing the dried chilis in warm oil

I just use tobanjan for mapo and kung pao dishes..and no hoisin. I too think that the sugar will smooth out the heat too much.

I brown the chilis in oil and garlic just before I add the pork. I find this lets the heat into the bits of meat.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I may be being too radical here, but the one thing that improved my mapo Doufu beyond belief was a tip from a Hubei friend who loved Sichuan food.

She told me to make it using a half beef half lamb mixture and to fry the mince really, really well.

It makes for a stellar, strong taste that really stands up to all the black beans, chiles and sichuan pepper that goes in the version I cook. If you are into strong flavour, do try it! :smile:

Do keep in mind, though, that I prefer the really fire-y type of Mapo Doufu (swimming under a dusting of Sichuan pepper and a thin layer of redhot oil), like the ones I have eaten in Sichuan itself. Big flavours (or as my mother would have it...."you cook just like a Sichuan peasant!").

I'm just a big chile-head :biggrin:

<a href='http://www.longfengwines.com' target='_blank'>Wine Tasting in the Big Beige of Beijing</a>

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I agree with the tip on really cooking the meat topping - I like it almost burnt in places which might be going too far - I also don't use a lot (Which helps it cook quickly!), it really is almost a condiment to the tofu rather than a main ingredient.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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I tried the recipe yesterday and it was a great success, the best home made mapo dofu I've evr knocked together. Thanks hzrt8w!

I'm intrigued by the black beans mentioned by some of you. I definitely would like to try adding some next time. how much would you use?

Il Forno: eating, drinking, baking... mostly side effect free. Italian food from an Italian kitchen.
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