Mapo doufu

Mapo doufu

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

A few years ago, on our first trip to Chengdu, we taxied with great excitement to the old mapo doufu restaurant near Qingyang Temple, only to find it destroyed by fire. This is so often the story in China, although generally it’s the wrecking ball that claims most old buildings. Luckily, iconic dishes such as this don’t depend on bricks and mortar for survival; it’s an entrenched Sichuanese favourite.


Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon sichuan peppercorns
60ml vegetable oil
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 small dried red chillies
250g minced beef
300ml Chicken stock
500g silken tofu, drained well and cut into 1.5 cm squares
1 1/2 tablespoons potato starch
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal


Quantity Ingredient
2 1/2 tablespoons sichuan chilli bean paste
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon clear rice wine
2 teaspoons red rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder


  1. To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine well. Set aside.
  2. Dry-roast the peppercorns in a small, heavy-based frying pan over a medium–low heat, shaking the pan often, for 3–4 minutes, or until fragrant. Cool, then transfer to a mortar (or an electric spice grinder) and pound with the pestle to form a fine powder.
  3. Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook, stirring, for 10 seconds, or until fragrant, then add the beef and cook, stirring to break up the meat, for about 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Add the sauce mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the stock, reduce the heat to medium, then add the tofu and stir gently to combine; take care not to break up the tofu.
  4. Combine the potato starch in a small bowl with 60 ml water and stir until smooth. Add the starch mixture to the wok and cook, stirring gently, for 1–2 minutes, or until the mixture simmers and thickens. Sprinkle over the ground peppercorns. Divide the tofu among four bowls, scatter over the spring onions and serve with rice.
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