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Mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Pailin Chongchitnant
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook Time: 15 mins
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4


  • 1 ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted (see note)
  • 200g ground beef
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp spicy broad bean paste (see note)
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese black beans, rinsed and roughly chopped (see note)
  • 1 cup chicken stock or pork stock, UNSALTED, or water
  • 2 Tbsp Chinese cooking wine (optional)
  • 1 ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 350g smooth soft tofu, 1-inch cubes (see note)
  • 1 Green onions, chopped
  • Chili oil (optional, see note)
  • Jasmine rice for serving

Ingredients and Kitchen Tools I Use


Toast Sichuan peppercorns in a dry saute pan for a few minutes, stirring constantly until they are aromatic and darken slightly. Grind in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder until fine.

Heat a wok or a saute pan over medium high heat, add the ground beef (no oil needed) and the soy sauce. Cook the beef, stirring constantly to break it up into small pieces, until the water that comes out of the meat has evaporated and the beef is browned slightly. 

Turn off the heat and remove the beef with a slotted spoon, leaving any fat behind. If your beef is quite lean and there isn't much fat left, add a little more cooking oil to the pan so there's enough to saute the garlic and ginger.

Turn the heat back on to medium, add garlic and ginger and saute until the garlic starts to turn golden. Add ground black pepper, half of the ground Sichuan peppercorns (or all of it if you like more of the numbness and aroma), the broad bean paste and the black beans. Saute the herbs and seasoning for about 30 seconds, then deglaze with stock, scraping off any bits that are stuck to the bottom. 

Add sugar, Chinese cooking wine, and the beef; simmer gently for 5 mins.

Meanwhile, dissolve the cornstarch in about 3 Tbsp of cold water.

When the sauce is done simmering, pour in half of the cornstarch slurry while stirring, and let it come back to a simmer. Check the sauce for thickness, and if it's still too runny, add a little bit more of the cornstarch slurry until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

Add the tofu to the sauce and gently nudge the tofu around so it is sitting in one layer. Spoon some the sauce over the tofu, then let it simmer gently for another 5 minutes.

Transfer onto a serving bowl, drizzle with more chili oil if desired, and garnish with chopped green onions and some of the reserved Sichuan peppercorns if desired. Tip: Some people do not like the numbing sensation from the Sichuan peppercorns, so it might be safe to serve the extra Sichuan pepper on the side so people can sprinkle on more if they want it.

Serve with jasmine rice, and  enjoy! 

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  • Sichuan peppercorns: They come in green and red varieties, either will work, but I prefer red. These peppercorns give a unique aroma and a tongue-numbing sensation which some people don't love. So to be safe, the amount I provided for this recipe is quite mild, so feel free to add more if you like a lot of numbness! 
  • Spicy broad bean paste: Called "douban jiang" or "toban djan," the brand I use is Lee Kum Kee, and is commonly available at Chinese grocers.
  • Chinese black beans: These are actually fermented soybeans and are widely available; they come in small bags or in bigger tubs. 
  • Choosing the right tofu: You want it smooth and soft, but not so soft that it will fall apart in the dish. What I use is labelled "smooth tofu" or "traditional tofu" which is somewhere between soft and medium. Either soft or medium firm tofu can be used instead, but be very gentle is using soft.
  • Chili oil: You can buy chili oil but it is also very easy to make. Take any kind of spicy dried chilies and grind it into a powder. Add the chilies into a small pot and add neutral oil at a ratio of about 1 Tbsp chili powder to 1/4 cup oil. Gently heat the oil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the chilies turn a little darker and smell smoky. Keep in the fridge to prevent it from going rancid.