Thursday 6 May 2010

A face like a bucket of Ma Po tofu.

I'm a fickle bitch. Quixotic and mercurial.

Only the other day I blogged about my latest obsession being dumplings.

No more.

My affair with dumplings was fleeting and tawdry.. based on my basest animal urges.

What is commonly called love, namely the desire of satisfying a voracious appetite with a certain quantity of delicate white human flesh. ~Henry Fielding

Now I have discovered The One. The Real Thing.

The one, at whose first tender lip brush, I hear heavenly choirs of seraphim.

Ma Po tofu.

Seriously. This is a dish so made of awesome.. from its odd translation ("old lady pockmarked face beancurd"), to the rich and hearty soupy broth, in which resides slow cooked minced pork and cubes of silken tofu, there is nothing not to love about this dish.

Wiki says:

Ma stands for "mazi" (Pinyin: mázi Traditional Chinese 麻子,) which means a person disfigured by pockmarks. Po (Chinese 婆) translates as "old woman". Hence, Ma Po is an old woman whose face was pockmarked. It is thus sometimes translated as "Pockmarked-Face Lady's Tofu". Legend says that the pock-marked old woman (má pó) was a widow who lived in the Chinese city of Chengdu. Due to her condition, her home was placed on the outskirts of the city. By coincidence, it was near a road where traders often passed. Although the rich merchants could afford to stay within the numerous inns of the prosperous city while waiting for their goods to sell, poor farmers would stay in cheaper inns scattered along the sides of roads on the outskirts of the ancient city. Another less widely accepted explanation stems from an alternate definition of 麻, meaning "numb": the Szechuan peppercorns used in the dish numb the diner's mouth.
The combination of dried birds eye chili and Szechuan peppercorns gives this dish a bite that is NOT for the faint-hearted, but you can adjust it to suit most palates. True Mapo doufu is powerfully spicy with both conventional "heat" spiciness and the characteristic "mala" (numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. The feel of the particular dish is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: 麻 (numbing), 辣 (spicy hot), 烫 (hot temperature), 鲜 (fresh), 嫩 (tender and soft), 香 (aromatic), and 酥 (flaky). These seven characteristics are considered to be the most defining of authentic Mapo doufu.

The other benefit, if that all of that chilli increases you metabolic rate, giving you a natural chilli high, and is said by some to aid weight loss. The tofu is an awesome source of phytooestrogens.

  • Marinade for Ground Pork:
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp tapioca starch (can substitute cornstarch)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Other:
  • 500g pound ground pork
  • 500g pound regular tofu (medium firmness)
  • 1 leek or 3 green onions
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Chinese salted black beans (fermented black beans, also called Chinese black beans), or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp chili bean paste, or to taste
  • 3 Tbsp stock (chicken broth)
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • Freshly ground Szechuan pepper
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, as needed


Mix marinade ingredients. Marinate pork for about 20 minutes.
Cut the tofu (bean curd) into 1/2 inch (1 cm) square cubes, and blanch (drop into boiling water) for 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water and drain.
Chop leek or green onions into short lengths.
Heat wok and add oil. When oil is ready, add the marinated pork. Stir-fry pork until the color darkens. Add salt and stir. Add the salted black beans. Mash the beans with a cooking ladle until they blend in well with the meat. Add the chili paste, then the stock, bean curd, and leek or green onions.
Turn down the heat. Cook for 3 - 4 minutes.
While cooking, mix cornstarch, water, and soy sauce together. Add to wok and stir gently. Serve with freshly ground Szechuan pepper.

recipe from


Cindy said...

LOVE IT. Discovered mapo tofu when a reader left their recipe for it in a blog comment last year and have been making it regularly ever since. Our recipe is almost identical to yours, though we sub soy mince for the pork. :-)

purple goddess said...

it's just the best stuff isn't it? Having it again for lunch today in the hope it will ward off this awful headcold I am coming down with.

Zoe said...

Peeg, you must try the Fuchsia Dunlop recipe - unfreakingbelievably good