Mapo tofu is a spicy, salty, intensely flavorful Szechuan dish. I think that it is the best tofu dish I’ve ever made, and furthermore, that it offers one of the best deliciousness-per-dollar ratios out there. And no, we’re not talking crunchy-granola tofu here — mapo tofu also brings ground pork and chicken broth to the party. The tofu, nonetheless, is a key component — it acts a beautiful, silky vehicle for the unctiousness of pork, the numbing spiciness of Szechuan peppercorns, and the intense flavor of fermented black beans mixed with chili paste.
Most of the ingredients are easy to find, but there are two that are a bit trickier to find in your local grocery store. Those are Szechuan peppercorns and fermented black beans. You can generally find chili bean paste around, but in case you can’t, Amazon comes through on that too.
The amounts of seasonings given will make a potent batch, but once you get a feel for how the affect the final taste, you’ll discover that you can pretty much go nuts with them and get an even more intense, delicious dish.
The ingredients below will feed about 6 people — and excepting the seasonings, you’ll note they are all truly inexpensive.
Ingredients to fry:
- 2 blocks of silken tofu, cut into ~1″ cubes
- 1 lb ground pork
- 4 tablespoons minced ginger
- 6 cloves garlic
- 4 scallions, divided into minced white parts and sliced green parts
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons fermented black beans, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns, freshly ground
- 1 tablespoon chili bean paste
Ingredients for sauce:
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons corn starch
Let’s Do It!
Combine the sauce ingredients and set them aside.
Heat up a wok or large sauté pan and add the sesame oil. Sauté the garlic, ginger, scallions, and peppercorns until they’ve softened a bit, about 2 minutes. Add in the fermented black beans and cook for about two more minutes.
Now, add in the ground pork, split it apart with the spatula into tiny chunks, and cook until it’s mostly done. At this point, add in the chili bean paste and stir to combine. Add the tofu in, and toss instead of stir so you don’t break it up too much.
Add the sauce and simmer while gently tossing ingredients until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.
Serve with chopped scallions for garnish on top of or aside white rice.