Chinese Cooking Recipes – Ma Po Tofu

mapo tofu

Hi guys, you know, some people don’t like tofu.  I get it, I didn’t used too either, it’s a bland protein delivery system after all and why bother if you’re not vegetarian/vegan.  This recipe got me however and now I crave it in all it’s jiggly forms, at least once a week.  We could all be healthier and none of us are getting younger, tofu is good for you, think of it like a blank canvas.  Would you eat pasta with no sauce, or plain white rice?  No of course not, tofu is the same, it takes on whatever flavors you give it and there are so many great chinese tofu recipes.  This ma po tofu recipe is my favorite though and it’s a great tofu introduction for newbies, it even has meat!  The “ma po” part of the recipe refers to an smallpox scarred (pock marked) old woman who used to make this for hungry workers in Szechuan.  Enjoy this tofu stir fry!

Equipment You Will Need

Get your trusty saute pan or wok, your cutting board and best knife.


  • 1 pound block of tofu, use extra firm if possible
  • 5 green onions, sliced thin on the bias (diagonal)
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb ground pork or beef (beef is tradtional but I like pork so there!)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Sichuan chili bean paste (this one is good too and easier to find in most markets)
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans (optional, I use chili garlic sauce sometimes for more heat)
  • 1 cup chicken broth/stock
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of corn starch mixed with 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon ground sichuan peppercorn
  • salt to taste

Grind up the Sichuan peppercorn in a mortar or just crush it up with the flat of your knife.  Make sure you taste as you cook, sometimes I add some ground chinese chilies to kick up the heat a bit more.

Let’s Cook!

Drain your tofu and cut it into 1 inch cubes (see the video below) and slice your green onions into thin diagonal shapes (horse ears in Chinese).  Add the oil to your wok and heat on med-high until almost smoking.  Cook the ground pork/beef until it is browned but not dry then turn the heat to medium.  Add the chili bean paste and stir fry until the oil takes on its color, about 30 seconds.  Then add the fermented beans and ground chilies (if using) and stir fry for 30 seconds more.  Pour in the chicken stock, stir and then gently add the tofu and gently mix.  Try not to break up the tofu too badly, add the sugar, soy sauce and salt and adjust as needed.  Simmer gently for about 5 minutes then add the scallions and simmer for a minute more.  Mix up the cornstarch and water and add slowly until the sauce climgs to the meat and tofu, you don’t need to use all the cornstach mixture.  Plate into a large bowl and add the ground sichuan peppercorn on top.

Platingma po tofu

Be careful not to break up the tofu as you’re mixing and plating, it should look like the picture to the right.  I think the video below is a classy way to eat this tofu stir fry but you can also scoop over a plate of rice if you want.  If you’ve not had Szechuan peppercorns before don’t be alarmed by the numbing feeling in your lips and tongue, it’s supposed to do that!

Post Prandial Thoughts

If you don’t at least like tofu after this then I can’t help you, it’s my favortie Chinese tofu recipe and a great one for the winter months.  This ma po tofu recipe reminds of Texas style chili in many ways, its hearty and comforting with a spicy kick!  I hope you will love it as much as I do, let me know how it went in the comments, enjoy!

-David B


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