Ma po tofu

Ma po tofu

Chinese Unchopped
30 mins
Cooking time
10 mins
Martin Poole

The literal translation of this dish, ‘old pocked woman tofu’, may not sound particularly appetising, but stick with it, as the result is a lovely, spicy, broth-like dish that highlights how good tofu is at absorbing flavour. Served with a bowl of rice on the side it’s the ultimate winter one-wok-wonder.


Quantity Ingredient
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 fresh bird’s-eye chillies
a small handful coriander
300g firm silken tofu, (fresh or packaged tofu are both fine to use)
2 teaspoons preserved black beans
1 1/2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns
400g pork mince
2 tablespoons chiu chow chilli oil, (the oil from the top of the pot only)

The marinade

Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons sesame oil
A pinch granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce

The sauce

Quantity Ingredient
2 teaspoons chilli bean paste or hot chilli paste
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine
400ml chicken stock


  1. Dice the onion. Finely chop the garlic, bird’s-eye chillies and coriander. Cut the silken tofu into 2cm cubes.
  2. Wash and drain the preserved black beans, place them in a sealable plastic bag with the Sichuan peppercorns and bash them with a rolling pin until lightly crushed.
  3. Place the meat in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients and massage together well with your hands. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl.
  4. BUILD YOUR WOK CLOCK: place your diced onion at 12 o’clock, then arrange the garlic, chilli, crushed black beans and peppercorns, meat bowl, sauce bowl, tofu cubes and coriander clockwise around your plate.
  5. Heat the Chiu Chow chilli oil in a wok over a medium-high heat until smoking-hot.
  6. Add the onion to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute until the onions are lightly browned and starting to soften. Add the garlic, black bean and peppercorn mix and chilli to the pan, followed immediately by the marinated pork. Stir-fry for a further 2 minutes, until the pork mince is separated and browned, then pour over the sauce and bring to a vigorous boil.
  7. Add the diced tofu to the wok, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break up the tofu pieces too much. Continue to bubble away until the sauce has thickened and reduced by a third but the dish is still nice and brothy. Remove from the heat.
  8. Serve in a large bowl and scatter over the finely chopped coriander to garnish.


  • To make this dish completely vegetarian, swap out the minced pork for finely chopped soaked shiitake mushrooms.


  • If your sauce isn’t thickening up properly, mix together ½ tablespoon of cornflour with 2 tablespoons of cold water and stir it into your sauce before folding in the tofu. Alternatively, if you happen to over-boil your sauce, just add a little hot water to thin it out.
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