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Nov 4, 2006 06:21 AM

Ma Po Do Fu

I'm typing this after having consumed one of the most bland renditions of the dish ever, from a no-name Chinese place in JP that caters mostly to the post-bar crowd.

Where can I find the best treatment of ma po, something that leaves my mouth numb and tingly? The ban on Sichuan peppercorns was lifted by the USDA in '05, no?

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  1. I love the spicy, smoky Ma Po at Sichuan Garden in Brookline. I give it a slight edge over Sichuan Gourmet in Framingham. It tastes a little more complex to me.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tomaneng

      Don't forget Anise in Kendall Square. IMHO the best of the Sichuan (of course many will argue). Very good ma po tofu, and if you like the Sichuan peppercorns they are quite liberal with them.

    2. I'd definitely look first to Sichuan Garden, Sichuan Gourmet, Chilli Garden or Zoe's, but I've also enjoyed Ma Po Tofu at Taiwan Cafe and Shangri La and I imagine Wang's and Quingdao Garden would be good bets.


      4 Replies
      1. re: BJK

        Don't know about Qingdao but Wang's version is NOT mapo. It's essentially I think a thicker version of their bean curd soup. Not bad, but a travesty of mapo.

        1. re: BJK

          I've gotta second the version at Zoe's. I don't have a ton of experience with the dish, but I love what I had there, and when we took a bunch of Ma Po lovers out to dinner at Zoe's, they raved. I like it better than Quingdao's version too, but not as much as Zoe's.

          1. re: BJK

            I would definitely steer clear of the mapo at Qingdao Garden. The latter is a northern Chinese restaurant, and while they will do the occasional spicy dish, it's a shadow of Sichuan Garden on a good night. Worse, the ma po at Qingdao Garden is on the "white" side of the menu and typically gets the "white" treatment (i.e. average take-out joint, as opposed to the divine stuff that peppers the other side of the menu).

            Have been to Chilli Garden (they misspell it on the window in Medford) twice in the past 2 months or so. One ma po was fair, the other was pretty good. But now that New Taste of Asia is closed, I'd still opt for Sichuan Garden if I was looking for ma po. Zoe's isn't in the same league (nice black bean flavor but not nearly enough heat or numbness).

            1. re: BJK

              I am not a fan of the ma po tofu at Taiwan Cafe (though I love this place for the taiwanese dishes).

            2. Add my vote for Chung Shin Yuan in Newton. Soft tofu and very spicy.

              1. Sichuan Guarden is great - if you have someone Chinese with you! I've found that when my hubby and I are on our own, we can't convince them to make the dishes authentic, but when I'm with my Chinese friends, I love the place! Best I've had outside of Sichuan.

                1 Reply
                1. re: jcanncuk

                  After reading all these comments I had to get some Ma Po Dofu! I like Sichuan Garden II in Woburn. Yum.