I learned how to make mapo tofu from my first partner’s mom. She let me hang out with her in the kitchen and help, and I got to learn how to make a lot of tasty dishes that I still make regularly. Mapo tofu is probably my favorite, and I make it often. It is easy to prepare, and the leftovers are something I can munch on for 2-3 meals, even if I share a little. It goes super well on rice, or on its own.
Mapo tofu is basically a meat gravy, and as such, it’s ridiculously good. The szechuan peppercorns give your mouth a little extra numb salivation feeling, and the kick from the red chili paste matches the garlic really well. Fresh green onions brighten the dish. This is comfort food for sure.
Making this dish is pretty simple, and if you serve it to someone, there’s a good chance they’ll think you’re a much better cook than you actually are—it’s a great effort-to-result dish.
Pour your chili oil into a pan—I use a cast-iron that usually has a little bacon grease in it, so I only add a little chili oil. Turn the heat up to medium- high.
As your oil heats up, pour your ground szechuan peppercorns into the pan and heat for a minute or two, along with your ginger.
Put your ground meat into the pan. Cook until lightly browned—around 5 minutes. Stir while you cook to make sure it doesn’t stick.
Move your pork a little to the side. Pour your chili paste onto the other side.
Stir a little. You want to get this slightly brown, which takes maybe 2-3 minutes.
Combine the two in the pan, and stir more. Turn the heat down to medium.
Add your soy sauce, and the black bean paste.
Combine your water with your corn starch and dashi powder. Make sure it’s mixed into a smooth tan liquid.
Pour the mixture of dashi, starch, and water into the pan, over the pork. Keep stirring.
At this point, the dish should look pretty tasty. It’ll be a reddish brown with ground meat and sauce that’s beginning to thicken a little. Add more water or more corn starch as necessary (always mixing the starch with water outside the pan to prevent clumps).
Open up your tofu, and cut it 4 or five times long-end to long-end, then once through the middle.
Pour in the tofu, and break it up a little more with your spatula.
Stir to combine everything.
After a few minutes, the tofu should be heated, and the dish is almost done!
Cut your green onion into small bits (1-2cm).
Save a little green onion for presentation. Pour the rest green onion in, and stir to combine.
Turn the heat off, and serve in bowls over rice.
Add some fresh green onion on the top to add a little color.
Leftovers keep for a few days, but if you like this dish, you’ll have trouble keeping any for longer than a day. In my house, it goes pretty fast.