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Terry & Dave Taylor

Mapo Tofu (Vegetarian/Vegan)

Mapo Tofu

One dish we enjoyed immensely (and often) in Taiwan was Mapo Tofu - soft tofu warmed in a spicy sauce. Traditionally made with ground pork or beef, it was just as common to find this dish without meat and was/is very popular with vegetarians. The dish is pronounced maw-po-doe-fu in Mandarin.

Originating from the city of Chengdu in the Sichuan (Szechuan) province of China, Mapo Tofu has an interesting history. Translated roughly to "pock-marked mother tofu", mapo tofu was created by a woman with a terribly pock-marked face. She prepared her tofu fiery-hot, became infamous, and her tofu recipe was so popular, customers lined-up to place orders. It is still one of the most popular and common dishes found in Szechuan restaurants world-wide.

Besides a pound of soft tofu, three little mise en place are required as the dish comes together quickly.

chili bean sauceOne item you may need to acquire at an Asian grocer, or a well-stocked supermarket, is a jar of Chili Bean Sauce. This spicy condiment is useful in any dish you would like to spice-up. Look for this paste as chili bean paste, doubanjiang or tobandjan, Ma La Sauce or Sichuan Chile Sauce. Ingredients can include salted chili pepper, fermented soy bean paste, fermented broad bean paste, sugar, garlic and other spices. The sauce is thinner than peanut butter and will require a good stir.

Four green onions are required - white and green parts separated. Use soft or medium tofu - the floating-in-a-tub of water variety. (Do not use Japanese "silken" tofu as it just too soft and could fall apart in this dish, and do not use extra-firm tofu in this recipe... too dry.) Rinse the tofu quickly under running water before cubing.

One pound soft or medium-firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
Boiling water
3 Tablespoons peanut (or canola/vegetable) oil

Bowl #1:
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (I always use more)
1/2 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
4 green onions, white parts only, minced

Bowl #2: Mix well
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons soy sauce (I use low sodium)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons chili bean paste

Bowl #3 - Garnish:
4 green onions, green parts only, sliced thin

Tofu, in boiling water
Cubed tofu, quietly waiting in boiling water bath

Place the cubed tofu in a heat-safe bowl and carefully pour boiling water over until tofu is completely covered with water. Let the bean curd rest in the boiling water, uncovered, while the dish is prepared.

Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Coat the bottom with oil, then add Bowl #1: ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns and minced white parts of the onions. Let this mixture wilt and stir often until the garlic and onion begin to brown, about three minutes.

Drain the tofu and carefully slide the drained bean curd into the skillet/wok. Gently toss. Give the (Bowl #2) sauce a good stir (to redistribute the cornstarch) before pouring it over the tofu in the skillet. Carefully, stir to coat well. Bring to a boil, and let the sauce simmer until it thickens, one or two minutes. Remove to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with (bowl #3) the green ends of the onions. Serve with rice.

Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu

NOTE: Spice level will be determined upon the spiciness of the chili sauce used. Taste first, but 2 Tablespoons is a good starting point. Pump-up the spice by adding dried chili flakes or another tablespoon of chili paste.

Mapo dofu
Mapo Tofu

  
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Mapo Tofu

This recipe was updated February 2017


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