Today, we are making Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) – the authentic way. Don’t expect the Americanized take-out style of Mapo tofu, that is not what you are getting in this video.
There are 8 characteristics for a good Mapo tofu, which are 麻、辣、鲜、香、嫩、滑、翠、整. Translated as numbing, spicy, umami, fragrant, tender, smooth, green, and whole. It may sound complicated but it is not that difficult. I will explain them as I am cooking.
Let’s get started by making the Dao Kou La Jiao (刀口辣椒). I have here 10-12 pieces of red dried chilies, which I have already cut into 1/2 inch long pieces. You can adjust the amount depending on your spice tolerance.
This is Hua Jiao (花椒), also known as Sichuan peppercorn. It is not spicy at all, but it gives you a tingling and numbing effect. I am using 1.5 tbsps. today. If you have never cooked with Hua Jiao before, please use a small amount at first such as 1 tsp and see how you like it; Sichuan peppercorns can be overpowering and ruin the dish.
These 2 ingredients complete 2 of the characteristics: numbing and spicy. Let’s toss them into the wok and toast over low heat for a couple of minutes. Do not burn it, otherwise, it will bring a bitter taste. Let it cool a little bit. Grind them finely with a blender.
The direct translation of Dao Kou La Jiao (刀口辣椒) is peppers under the blade. Because back to the time when we didn’t have blenders, the Sichuan peppercorns and red chilies are chopped with a knife, which I think is super annoying because when I chop them, they just jump all over my countertop. So, technology saves headaches.
The next ingredient is Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang (四川豆瓣酱), also known as the soul of Sichuan cuisine. There are many brands out there, and I recommend this Juan Cheng Pai. It is a local and time-honored brand in Sichuan. (This video is not sponsored by the Dou Ban Jiang…)
Whenever you use Dou Ban Jiang, you always want to either chop it or blend it because these broad bean pieces are quite firm. Let me show you one. That is going to affect the texture and the flavor of the final dish.
So, add 2.5 tbsps. of the Sichuan Dou Ban Jiang to the same blender cup. Follow up with 1.5 tsps. of fermented black soybean, AKA dou chi. I will link the product in the description as well. If you don’t have it, you can use 1.5 tsps. of Korean soybean paste. Continue by adding 2 tbsps. of Chinese cooking wine.
Blend everything into a puree. Set that aside, we will move on to the tofu.
Depending on the texture, tofu is classified into the silken, soft, medium, firm, extra firm, and super firm. The difference is in how much water is pressed out of the tofu. The more water you press out of it, the firmer it gets.
I am using soft tofu because I like the tenderness. Firmer tofu contains a lot more plant-based protein as you are paying for the same weight but less water ratio.
We will blanch the tofu first. Bring a liter of water to a boil. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and slide in the tofu. The salt is not to season the tofu, instead, it will prevent the tofu from breaking easily while stirring. Let this simmer for a couple of minutes. Carefully take it out and set it aside.
Turn the heat to high and heat the wok until it is smoking hot. Add some cooking oil. Swirl it around to coat the bottom of the wok. Toss in 200 grams of ground beef. That’s what I have in the fridge today. You can also use pork or chicken. Try to break it up into small pieces. We don’t want any meat patties. It should be nice and loose so those little beef bits can cling onto the tofu. Once all the meat has changed color, push it to the side. There should be some oil pulling out from the beef. We will use that to sauté the Doubanjiang paste.
Once you can smell the fragrance of the dou ban jiang paste, you can toss in the 2 tbsp of minced garlic, 1.5 tsp of minced ginger, some white part of the scallion, 1 tsp of paprika, this will give a bright red color; 2 tsps. of sugar – mapo tofu is super flavorful. A little bit of sugar will bring out the umami flavor and balance the tanginess; 1/2 of the dao kou la jiao, reserve the other half to add at the end. Stir to mix everything.
Pour in the beef stock, don’t forget to rinse the blender cup so you don’t waste any flavor.
Turn the heat to high and bring this to a boil. Give this a taste to see if you need to adjust the flavor. Mine needs 2 tsp of soy sauce. Add the tofu into the wok It should be a lot saltier compared to your normal taste because the tofu doesn’t really have that much flavor. And this dish is normally served with white rice. So you need the flavor to be strong to go good with the rice. Turn the heat to low again and we will simmer the tofu for 5 minutes.
While waiting, we will quickly mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water. Add it to the wok in 3 batches. The trick here to stir the tofu without breaking it is to push everything with the back of the spatula. Do not pull it towards you because the edge of the spatula is sharp and it will break the tofu. Remember, the last characteristic of this dish is called whole, we don’t want broken tofu.
Ok, you are ready to enjoy this mouth watering Mapo tofu. Sprinkle the reserved Dao Kou La Jiao and the diced scallion as garnish.
I specifically made it with a lot of sauce so it goes perfect with white rice. The smell is so good. If you walk into a sichuan restaurant in China, this is what it smell like. The flavor is so rich, spicy, number, and aromatic. After you take a few bites, you will start sweating. But it is so good that you can’t stop eating it.