This is an authentic recipe from our team in China, featured in our Sichuan Recipe Box. The ingredients labeled with a * below are hard-to-find ingredients that we’ve sourced from China and are all included in our recipe box which is available for shipping throughout the USA and China. For more information and to purchase online, click here.
In the 1860s China’s last great imperial dynasty was entering its final chapters, and Mrs. Chen survived smallpox at a great cost, leaving her disfigured from scarring. Left to the city outskirts at Wanfu bridge entering the northern edges of the city, she and her husband operated a humble road-side eatery called the Chen Xingsheng Restaurant.
Though there are several legends involving how Mrs. Chen’s mapo tofu recipe became popularized, (via traders asking her to cook their wares, a tired businessman seeking shelter, or meat-eating customers who wanted to upgrade her vegetarian version) Mrs. Chen’s mapo tofu recipe became renown, and hungry patrons were told to identify the humble stall through her appearance: “Ma” meaning scarred with pockmarks, and “Po” meaning old lady. Today, the Scarred Old Lady’s tofu is celebrated the world over, and is part of the reason Chengdu became recognized as a UNESCO culinary city.
Chengdu records from 1909 show that the Chen family eventually embraced the popular name, re-registering their business as Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant and listed as one of the 23 most famous restaurants in Chengdu in the late Qing Dynasty. Its flavor, price, and suitability with rice meant mapo tofu became a Chinese food staple, spreading nationwide.
The best philosophy for mapo tofu is: The simpler, the better. Even though the ingredients are humble, mapo tofu is seen as a test of any aspiring chef’s skills. Importantly, the right ingredients are crucial in creating an authentic taste, which we’ve supplied for you here in our Sichuan Box.
Items marked with a * are included in our Sichuan Recipe Box.
3/4 cup cooking oil (we always use canola oil, but soy or peanut oil also works well)
1 tsp of whole Sichuan peppercorns*
10.5oz / 300g ground pork
4-6 Tbsp Sichuan spicy bean chili sauce* (adjust the amount based on your spice level)
4 slices of ginger, finely minced
8 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 Tbsp of chili flakes*
2 tsp to 2 Tbsps of Sichuan peppercorn powder* (adjust the amount based on your spice level)
2 cups of chicken stock
2 lbs / 1kg extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes. NOT soft tofu as it is too easy to break.
2 Tbsp of soy sauce
1 Tbsp of sesame oil (optional but recommended)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 stalks of green onion to garnish
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