Inside: Follow along as I walk you through one of my family’s FAVORITE weeknight dinners – a spicy Sichuan bean curd dish known as mapo tofu. If you’re a fan of mouth tingling, numbing heat (known as “mala”) you’re going to LOVE this recipe.
About a year ago, we visited my brother-in-law in Chicago. He and his wife are the biggest foodies I know, and they created an epic food journey for us throughout the city. The most memorable restaurant was Chengdu Impressions, and my favorite dish was their mapo tofu.
Fun fact: They also traveled to Chengdu, China and took a mapo tofu cooking class. Amazing, right? They are my foodie heroes.
It was crazy how much we loved this dish. I’ve always been a fan of tofu, but my husband? Hard pass. It’s not that he’s against vegetarian or vegan food, in fact, he would be perfectly happy with a steady stream of ethnic vegan dishes. Tofu was just never really his thing.
So the fact that my husband was as obsessed with this spicy Sichuan bean curd dish as I, was surprising and delightful at the same time. I was super pumped to head home and find a local restaurant to make it for me.
And I kept trying to find a good comparison.
I even reached out to my foodie audience and asked for suggestions:
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Real Talk: Where is the best mapo tofu in Columbus? The spicier and tinglier, the better. I’ve tried a couple places and haven’t been impressed…nothing like what we tasted in Chicago a couple of weeks back. Cbus friends …. where do I find the BEST mapo tofu in Columbus?!? . #mapotofu #cbuseats #cbusfoodscene
And no matter where I went, I just couldn’t quite replace the flavor of the spicy Sichuan bean curd that I had tasted in Chicago.
So I started playing around in my kitchen. I went to the Asian market and found a “mapo tofu” pre-made sauce and I was hopeful that it was exactly what I was looking for. While it was good, it was still missing the flavor I was craving.
I kept playing around until I got the flavor just right.
I have no idea how authentic this recipe is, but I can assure you it’s delicious! We have literally been making it at least once a week for the past 2 months.
Hope you enjoy!
Mapo Tofu – A Recipe For Spicy Sichuan Bean Curd
Homemade Mapo Tofu - Spicy Sichuan Bean Curd Recipe
A simple recipe for spicy Sichuan Bean Curd, aka Mapo Tofu! Just a few ingredients combine to make this deliciously spicy dish.
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp ginger
- 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn
- 2 tbsp mapo sauce
- 2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 cup stock
- 1 block firm tofu
- 4 stalks scallions
- 1/2 cup stock
- 2 tsp cornstarch
In a dry pan, toast Sichuan peppercorns over medium heat, until fragrant.
Grind peppercorns into a fine dust and set aside.
Prepare ingredients. Chop garlic cloves, grate ginger, slice scallions, and set aside.
Drain tofu and lightly pat dry with a paper towel. Slice tofu into cubes.
Place a pan over medium heat and add in sesame oil.
Once oil is hot, add in garlic and ginger and lightly saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add in ground Sichuan peppercorn and mapo sauce and cook for 1 minute.
Add soy sauce and one cup of stock and stir through for 1 minute.
Add cubed tofu and gently stir into the sauce. Turn heat to medium low and gently simmer to reduce the sauce, for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix cornstarch into 1/2 cup of stock.
To the pan, add scallion and the cornstarch/stock mixture and turn heat to medium high.
Simmer until sauce thickens and coats tofu. Taste and sprinkle on more Sichuan peppercorn if desired.
Serve with hot rice and steamed bok choy.
Mapo Tofu (Spicy Sichuan Bean Curd) Notes
While you’re at the Asian store, don’t forget to pick up a pack of these Sichuan peppercorns, or grab them on Amazon here. You can’t sub regular peppercorns for this dish, you MUST use the Sichuan peppercorns. While toasting the Sichuan peppercorns may feel like an extra step, it really brings out the aromatics in this dish. All the deliciously flavor in this Spicy Sichuan Bean Curd dish comes from these peppercorns, so definitely take the time to get the right ones and to toast them before using.
A helpful tip for the ginger, that I learned from my mom, is to store your ginger in the freezer. It makes grating it very easy and it lasts forever! Also, no need to peel the ginger skin off, when using a grater, the skin always comes off and only the inside gets grated. Like magic!
If you don’t have a grater, I highly recommend one like this style. I use mine ALL the time. In addition to finely grating ginger and garlic – I love grating some parmesan over pasta, zesting some lemon peel into my marinades, or grating some dark chocolate into my cappuccinos!
For the tofu – this is really your preference. My family prefers a firm tofu in this dish, but it’s sometimes served in restaurants with a soft or silken tofu.
Add in ideas for Spicy Sichuan Bean Curd:
We love this dish as is. But if you’d like to add in some meat – I highly suggest ground pork!
If you’d like to keep it vegetarian, I’ve had great luck adding in sliced celery or minced mushrooms for a little added flavor and crunch.