Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐

Mapo Tofu
Chen Mapo Tofu or commonly known as Mapo Tofu (stir-fried tofu in hot sauce) was created by the wife of a small restaurant owner during Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). There are many stories surrounding the origin of this dish.

According to Wikipedia: Ma stands for “mazi” (Pinyin: mázi Traditional Chinese 麻子) which means a person disfigured by pockmarks or leprosy, the latter is also called 痲 má or 麻風 máfēng. Po (Chinese 婆) translates as “old woman, crone”. Hence, Ma Po is an old woman whose face was pockmarked, and “Doufu” is the Chinese phonetic symbol which stands for tofu. It is thus sometimes translated as “Pockmarked-Face Lady’s Tofu“.

2 other versions of the Mapo Tofu’s name according to China Daily goes like this:
Story 1: Mapo tofu (stir-fried tofu in hot sauce) was created by the wife of a small restaurant owner named Chen Senfu in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Mrs. Chen lived in the Wan Fu Bridge area in the northern part of Chengdu (now the capital of Sichuan province) and had many pocks on her face, so she was called Chen Mapo (woman with pocks on the face; Ma refers to the pocks and Po means old woman). Because of this, the grilled tofu she made was named Chen Mapo tofu and her small restaurant was called Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant.

In 1909, Chengdu included this restaurant and Chen Mapo tofu in the Chengdu Famous Food Stores. The story of Chen Mapo tofu can be found in many ancient books including Poems of Bamboo in Jin City and Reminiscence of Hibiscus. Feng Jiaji, a poet from the late period of Qing Dynasty, had written a poem to praise the dish, saying the flavor of the tofu was even better than good wine. Mapo tofu has spread its fame throughout China, and is also famous in foreign countries like Japan and Singapore.

Story 2: Chen Mapo tofu (people used to call it Mapo Tofu) was created in 1862 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was made in Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant near Wan Fu Bridge in the northern part of Chengdu (now the capital of Sichuan province).

After the restaurant owner Chen Chunfu died, his wife managed the restaurant. As there were many pocks on her face, she was called Chen Mapo (woman with pocks on the face). At that time, the Wan Fu Bridge was not long but very wide. Laborers always had a rest there. Porters carrying oil for merchants often stayed at Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant. They would buy some tofu and beef at the restaurant and fetch a little oil from what they were carrying. Then they would ask Chen Mapo to cook for them. In this way, they could save some money.

Gradually, Chen Mapo developed a unique way of cooking tofu. The tofu she made looked good, smelled good and tasted good, so Chen Mapo became famous. Writers and poets often gathered at the restaurant. Some people made fun of the pocks on Chen’s face and called the tofu Chen Mapo tofu.

This story spread widely and became a legend. Therefore, the restaurant Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant was also called Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant. According to Chengdu Records, Chen Mapo tofu was regarded as one of the most famous Chengdu foods at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Because of the continuous efforts of the descendants of Chen, Chen Mapo Sichuan Restaurant has enjoyed the fame for more than 140 years. It makes its name known both at home and abroad and wins praise from Chinese and foreign gourmands.

You can easily find the authentic recipes online and I love the original version which is really spicy and oily but the recipe I am sharing here is my children’s version of the dish. My reaction when I first saw them eating this dish was “That’s not Mapo Tofu!” but have gotten used to their creation. There’s no need to argue when I can get them to eat tofu and vegetables… yes, even frozen mixed vegetables are better than none.

Mapo Tofu1©BondingTool Above are the ingredients you will need for our version of Mapo Tofu.

Mapo Tofu2©BondingToolHeat some oil in pot, sauté 2 cloves minced Garlic and diced Mushrooms for 2 minutes.

Mapo Tofu3©BondingToolAdd 500g minced meat (beef, chicken, pork) of your choice.

Mapo Tofu4©BondingToolStir-fry till colour becomes opaque.

Mapo Tofu5©BondingToolAdd in half a jar (110g) of the Mapo Tofu Sauce, 1 teaspoon Hot Chilli Powder (optional) and 1 tablespoon of the Dan Dan Noodle Sauce (see pictures bottom of post).

Mapo Tofu6©BondingToolFry till fragrant and oil exudes from meat.

Mapo Tofu7©BondingToolAdd in the Mixed Vegetables. Stir for a minute.

Mapo Tofu8©BondingToolAdd cubed Pressed Silken Tofu.

Mapo Tofu9©BondingToolLet the tofu be infused with the sauce. When liquid has reduced and thicken, turn off heat. Dish out and sprinkle some of the ground Sze Chuan Pepper (powder) and fried shallots before serving.

Mapo Tofu10©BondingToolThis is how my children like the dish served – Mapo Tofu on top of steamed Jasmine rice.

Below are the pictures of some of the ingredients used:
Mapo Tofu14©BondingToolMapo Tofu13©BondingTool
Amoy Mapo Tofu Sauce1©BondingToolMapo Tofu12©BondingTool

1. Pressed Silken Tofu.
2. Sze Chuan Peppercorns and Sze Chuan Pepper Powder (optional, some find this too pungent).
3. Amoy Brand Mapo Tofu Sauce (we’ve tried a few brands and recommend this).
4. Dan Dan Noodles Sauce (optional, and is salty so no need to add extra salt).

500g minced meat (Beef, Chicken or Pork).
500g box Tofu, coarsely cubed (Silken or Firm texture to your desire).
2 cloves Garlic, minced.
5-8 Dried Shitake Mushrooms (reconstituted, slice or dice).
1 teaspoon Hot Chilli Powder (optional, amount up to your desire).
½-1 cup Frozen Mixed Vegetables (more if you like).
1½ tablespoon Groundnut Oil.
½ tsp Sesame Oil or Chilli Oil (optional, to be drizzled onto the tofu just before serving).

You can add more or less, even omit some of the ingredients and seasonings – shrimps, chopped scallions, coriander leaves for garnishing, etc… etc… Just have fun in the kitchen with your loved ones!

Happy cooking 🙂

6 Responses to “Mapo Tofu 麻婆豆腐”
  1. you are a very talented cook. reading your blog makes me hungry all the time

    • bondingtool says:

      Thank you for your compliments, Vicky. I hope you will try some of my recipes tweaking the main ingredients and condiments according to your taste. Have some fun in the kitchen 🙂

  2. I agree with Vicky!!!

  3. Hi Sam! I really enjoy your site and always look forward to your posts. I’m not sure if you like blog awards.:) But I have just nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award–2013. Please click here for more info: Thanks! –Mike

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.