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Nov 10, 2008 11:28 AM

What firmness of tofu for mabo tofu?

I'm making this for the first time in a looooong time and completely forgot what I used to use. I usually use firm tofu for kimchi stew, but I think for mabo tofu it should be a little softer, no? Or would using a medium firm cause it crumble up too much? And does mabo tofu have diced onions in it? Gah, it's been such a long time since I've either made it or had some in a restaurant!

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  1. I used to use medium-firm or even firm, thinking anything softer would disintegrate, UNTIL I tasted a restaurant's version made with silken tofu. It was spectacular! Since then I've used only silken tofu for the dish. The silken tofu keeps its shape just fine.

    No diced onions, traditionally. But there are chopped green onions in it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: browniebaker

      I use firm silken tofu. Soft tofu just disintegrates so you're left with tofu particles in bean sauce. The firm silken, however, keeps its shape (relatively), but offers that smooth and soft mouth feel that makes for great mapo.

    2. Mapo tofu is one of those dishes where each chef will have his or her own different take, so there isn't any general rule. I have had soft silken tofu version and firm tofu version, and I personally prefer the silken tofu version. It's just a personal preference.

          1. re: PegS

            Another vote for soft tofu for this awesome dish.

          2. re: ipsedixit

            Yet another vote for soft. I really love the creamy silky texture of the soft tofu amalgamated with the yummy sauce. And of course, the love hunks of marinated pork - so perfect.

          3. Soft, definitely. I wrote out a good recipe (Spicy Bean Curd, Sichuan Style) from Chinese Home-Style Cooking a month or so ago, but I'm not computer and Chowhound-literate enough to point you directly at it. Sorry.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Joebob

              Joebob, is this the recipe? (Sounds delicious! I hope opinionated chef saw it!)

              Since you said you'd posted it within the past month or so, I just clicked on your user name which brought up a list of your posts, which I then scanned until I found this one. Since it was a relatively recent post, it wasn't that onerous. For future reference, you could do the same by clicking on "MyChow" which brings up a listing of all of your posts. You could also do a search using the search feature, but that's a little fussier. :).

              Joebob, you mention that a cook is judged by how many of the corners are stirred off, etc. I think I would fail miserably if ever "judged" on any of my Chinese style cooking. Goodness, if stirred-off corners are my only problem, that's a great day in my kitchen!

              That being said, I'm no expert, but I like using soft tofu, too. It's just so delicate, almost like a custard. I had a lot of fun with Fuchsia Dunlop's mapo dofu recipe from Land of Plenty (UK Title was Sichuan Cookery) when it was COTM earlier this year.


              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Hi DQ! Yes, yes, that's it. Thanks for teaching how to use this site more effectively. (How does one mannage to attach the precise chowhound "address/link", if you don't mind my asking?) It really yields good Ma Po. A week or so after posting, I went to Amazon and all of the used copies of the cookbook had disappeared!
                The more I make it, the less I find I need to stir it after adding the tofu, so the cubes in the finished product have gradually increased in size. If the fire isn't too hot, it can be stirred very gently to disperse the cornstarch, etc. while keeping the cubes relatively intact. Compare this with F. Dunlop's version and let me know which you prefer, and , again,THANKS MUCH for your response.

                1. re: Joebob

                  I will try it and let you know one of these days. Actually, also, to the OP, I realize, I've been using silken tofu. I thought that was actually the same as "soft" tofu, but I guess not...

                  Alibris is another good source of used cookbooks if Amazon is out...But, now I have to go look and see if that book's on Amazon again.

                  To attach the precise link, first click on the word Permalink" on any particular post or reply to a post. That will cause the url for that specific reply to appear in your address bar at the top of your window. Just highlight that and do ctrl C (if you're a windows user) to copy the link. Then just do ctrl P to paste the link right into the body of your post.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I have just sent this info. to my "for follow up" file. Thanks once more.
                    There is a new edition of the book and I don't know what's in it. In my copy there also is a very easy, tasty cabbage recipe that I've found useful.

            2. Soft or firmer tofu are both fine but NO ONIONS.