Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

The words mapo tofu has to be one of the most well known Chinese dishes around the world, especially for those of you who like to eat chilli Sichuan food. It’s also one of Chen Kenichi’s (Iron Chef Chinese from the popular TV series) signature dishes.

However, how many of you actually know where this dish came from? I’ve mentioned before that I would love for someone to name a dish after me. Just like kung pao chicken, mapo tofu was also named after the original chef who created this dish. You see, the word “mapo” means pocks lady. She had pocks like features on her face and therefore was given that nickname. I’m suddenly not so sure if I want to named after a dish if it was going to be one like this…

The coincidence though is that ‘ma’ actually also means ‘numb’ and is perfect for this dish as the Sichuan peppers will give you a numbing sensation that’s so essential for this dish.

There are many varieties of this dish out there and Yuye’s version below doesn’t actually use Sichuan peppers because he doesn’t like that numbing sensation. If you’re planning on making this dish though, I would suggest putting a few in to give you that extra layer of experience. Hopefully you will like this recipe even without the numbness!

Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐)
Serves 2
A spicy tofu dish from the Szechuan region of China. Chilli paste, Szechuan peppercorns and hot bean paste give this dish a strong kick. Serve with Mapo tofu with rice.
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
  1. 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  2. 100g pork mince
  3. 300g firm tofu
  4. 1 clove of garlic
  5. 1 spring onion
  6. 1 tsp ginger
  7. 1 tbsp Chinese pickles
  8. 1/2 tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
  9. 1 tbsp chilli paste
  10. 1/2 tbsp hot bean paste
  11. 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  12. 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  13. 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  14. 3 tbsp water
  15. 1 tsp sugar
  16. 1 tbsp Shaoxin Rice Wine
  17. 1 tbsp cornflour
  18. Salt
  19. Chopped coriander to garnish
  1. Finely chop garlic, spring onion, ginger and Chinese pickle. Crush and chop Szechuan peppercorns. Chop coriander. Slice tofu into 1cm thick slices.
  2. Mix pork mince with rice wine, season lightly. Let it sit for 10min.
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a pan at medium heat and fry garlic, ginger, spring onion, peppercorns and Chinese pickles for 2 minutes.*
  4. Add chilli paste and hot bean paste and fry 2 minutes.
  5. Increase to a high heat and add in pork mince. Break up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon/spatula while cooking. Fry until all mince is cooked through.
  6. Reduce to medium high heat and add in tofu. Break tofu roughly into 1cm chunks with wooden spoon/spatula.
  7. Add in light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, water and sugar. Stir through and simmer for 8 minutes.
  8. Dissolve cornflour with cold water and mix until smooth. Add mixture to tofu and stirring through evenly. Simmer until the sauce thickens.**
  9. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve.
  1. * Make sure heat is not too high, otherwise hot ingredients will splatter.
  2. ** If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of water to thin it out. Conversely, to thicken the sauce, add more of the cornflour and water mixture.
  3. Beef mince or even chicken mince can be used instead of pork mince, although the resulting taste will be quite different.
  4. Chinese pickles can be omitted if unavailable.
  5. Ground black pepper can be used instead of Szechuan peppercorns but won't get that numbness. Or the peppercorns can be omitted altogether.
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4 comments… add one
  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella May 7, 2015, 9:39 pm

    I love this dish. I even made Iron Chef Chen’s recipe after trying it at an Iron Chef dinner. It was so good! After taht he became my favourite Iron Chef 😀

  • Monica May 7, 2015, 9:42 pm

    I love mapo tofu and this looks fantastic! I love your homemade recipe. And that’s really interesting about the name of the dish – who knew!

  • London Caller May 8, 2015, 3:58 am

    Oh one of my favourite dishes!
    I tried it with turkey mince several times before too.
    It was actually quite good.
    >It’s getting very cold where I am, so jealous of that sunshine!
    Yeah, that was a lucky day.
    It’s usually very cloudy or gloomy, like today, another dark grey day.

  • cquek May 8, 2015, 11:30 pm

    I would like to dive right into this dish.


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