Mapo Tofu

I judge a real chinese restaurant on one dish, and it is always Mapo Tofu. A real, sichuan chinese restaurant should have this amazing dish, and it should be exceedingly hot. When I say hot, I don't just mean mouth burning hot like you get in thai and mexican cooking. I mean that face numbing, whole body feels warm and tingly kind of hot. After two months of living on the east coast and missing Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, I knew I wanted to make my own mapo tofu (though I wanted to give it a little less star anise flavor than they have.

A lot of chinese restaurants make mapo tofu vegetarian. I assure you, nothing in real chinese cooking should be vegetarian. This dish should be filled with tofu, pork and plenty of chili. If you're looking for a dish to warm you up and clear your sinuses this winter, make this dish and serve it with rice. It's fantastic.

Mapo Tofu

  • ½ lb ground pork
  • ½ minced onion
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 Tbsp sambal chili paste
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 lb tofu, cubed
  • 1 tbsp garlic
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 6 dried sichuan chilis
  • small handful (2 Tbsp) sichuan peppercorns, ground
  • 2 finely ground star anise pods
  • chopped scallions

  1. Soak shiitakes in boiling water for 10 minutes and slice thin. Add soy, chili paste and corn starch to reserved liquid
  2. Sautee onions and pork together until pork is brown. Break apart large pieces and add garlic and ginger until fragrant.
  3. Add reserved liquid and simmer briefly with star anise, chilis and peppercorns
  4. Gently add tofu, and simmer until warmed
  5. Dress at the very end with sesame oil and scallions. Serve immediately.