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Ma Po Tofu (Dofu) adventures

I had convinced my self that I don't like tofu, never would, period. But the more I thought about Ma Po dofu, the less convinced did I become and more curious and I started to eat a bit of the tofu that comes in the Hot and Sour soups at my favorite Sichuan restaurants. It was worth a try, so on a recent visit to Sechuan Garden in Medford I took a gamble and ordered it and it was delicious! Bowled me over! It was medium spicy and served with meat and had a good Mala.
Next of was Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica, who I had high hopes for. No meat and very very mild, not very exiting at all. The leftovers extruded a lot of water.
Lunch at Sichuan Garden II in Woburn yielded a very tasty version even if it was meatless and had little Mala. Next time I try it spicier, this one has great potential.
Next was Fuloon in Malden, no meat but super tasty, it helped that they had ground Sichuan peppecorns sprinkled on top. NO heat and little Mala, again great potential.
Off to Formosa Tapei in Lexington for a takeout. This was more like Ma Po soup, no meat, some heat and the more I did eat the more watery it become. No Mala.
Lastly was Sechuan Chef in Chelmsford, Wayne is an old friend, I used to eat here a lot when working in Nashua. Ma Po is not on the lunch menu and he has two version, one meatless and one with meat and that was what I ordered. This was excellent, good spiciness, really good Mala, nice consistency on the sauce and a humongous portion for $8.99. I think this was the winner but I got it spiced appropriate for me and have to retry the places that was low on heat and Mala to make it fair. All of the above was off the lunch menus, except Sichuan Chef.

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Sichuan Gourmet
502 Boston Rd, Billerica, MA 01821

Sichuan Garden II
2 Alfred St, Woburn, MA 01801

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  1. I suggest that you try CK Shanghai and New Shanghai in Chinatown, too.

    I do not think that Ma Po should be very hot.

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    New Shanghai Restaurant
    21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

    2 Replies
    1. re: cambridgedoctpr

      New Shanghai very well balanced ma la. Big scallions! More spicy than tingly though and kind of pricey.

      1. re: cambridgedoctpr

        Had the New Shanghai mapo tofu

        I think its really pitch perfect. It has the Ma La seriousness. Great doubanjiang and douchi as well as beautifully chopped green onions. Rice is fantastic and the portion size is huge. I will add that if you just buy Mapo Tofu you cannot sit there and the proprietor is kind of a jerk. Its worth dealing with his weird rules to try this dish (as well as other delicious ma la dishes). It is a bit expensive and I would say there wasn't quite enough rice for the heaping amount of Mapo Tofu, even though rice costs extra.

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        New Shanghai Restaurant
        21 Hudson St, Boston, MA 02111

      2. THanks for the rundown, very interesting. You might want to try the Chilli Garden (Medford Square) version too. Plenty of mala, incredibly flavorful.

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        Chilli Garden
        41 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

        2 Replies
        1. re: GretchenS

          Seconded. I just had this the other day. Fantastic.

          1. re: GretchenS

            I really ment Chilli Garden in Medford in my first review, not Sechuan Garden, sorry about that.

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            Chilli Garden
            41 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

          2. I'm surprised at your comment about Fuloon's ma po. I'm no expert but I found it full of ground pork with larger than normal tofu chunks and a delicious multi-layered sauce. Not too hot, but with the pleasant ma la tinglies.

            Here's the dish in the carton --> http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4021/4...

            Here's the dish over rice --> http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4019/4...

            I really like their version.

            2 Replies
            1. re: yumyum

              Fuloon's is my favorite in Boston. You can order it with or without pork. A similar dish on their menu is the si4 chuan1 dou4 hua1 (Bean Curd with Special Sauce), a version that is less spicy but more numbing and with a more silken texture of tofu. While Mapo Tofu usually comes with pork there, the douhua is usually vegetarian, although each can be prepared either way.

              By the way, I love it when someone compares the same dish at different restaurants. It's nice to see the variations side-by-side. Great thread!

              1. re: yumyum

                Thanks, that's not what's on the lunch menu. I have to try to order from the regular menu.

              2. You should also consider the version offered on Thailand Cafe's Sichuan menu. Covered in red chili oil -- spicy but not overly so. Excellent with rice.

                5 Replies
                1. re: kobuta

                  Are we talking the Thailand Cafe that's on Mass Ave in Arlington (by the Capitol Theatre)? Or the one on Mass Ave in Cambridge near Porter Square?

                  1. re: litchick

                    Neither. The Thailand Cafe that's on Mass Ave in Cambridge near MIT

                    1. re: litchick

                      The one on Mass Ave in Cambridge between Central and Kendall (aka Kentrall). Either there's a 3rd Thailand Cafe - who knew? - or it's the one you described as near Porter Sq. Not really so close to Porter Sq; that would be a good 30-40 minute walk at least.

                      1. re: kobuta

                        Oh, you're right. My bad. I saw the google maps street view of the MIT one, and mistakenly thought it looked like Porter Sq. In my defense, I hadn't eaten lunch yet and was delirious. For ma po.

                    2. re: kobuta

                      Second the suggestion. It is fairly spicy though. Especially with the peppercorns but that is part of the yumminess.

                    3. FYI, "ma" = "numbing" and "la" = "heat/spicy"

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Luther

                        Thanks - I was wondering about that.