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Jul 23, 2012 07:49 AM

Ma Po Tofu

What is the difference between Ma Po Tofu, Bean Curd Szechuan Style, and Bean Curd Homestyle? I thought they were the same thing, but my local chinese restaurant lists all three.

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  1. It's difficult to say, because Chinese menu items often do not have standardized English names. I don't suppose you would have the Chinese names for those dishes?

    3 Replies
    1. re: raytamsgv

      You mean the chinese characters? The last two characters are the same on all three, but the first two characters are different on all three. So I guess there must be some difference?

      1. re: JolokiaJen

        Yes, I am referring to the Chinese characters. "Bean Curd" might actually refer to another item also known as "tofu skin" ( But without the Chinese characters, all we can do is guess.

        1. re: raytamsgv

          Thanks. I looked up Tofu on wikipedia and those are the last two characters on all three.

    2. To be perfectly honest, all of those Bean Curd titles pretty much do describe the same dish. But as raytamsgv said, it's not standardized. But I will say that I've used recipes titled under all three, & they've all been delicious.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bacardi1

        Thanks. I guess I can't go wrong ordering any one of them then. I wonder why they include all three on the menu if they are basically the same thing.

      2. According to Chang and Kutscher, Ma Po Dow Fu is Szechuan. Barbara Tropp, in The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking differentiates Down-Home Hunan Tofu by having the tofu "first deep-fried to a firm, golden brown."

        11 Replies
        1. re: GH1618

          So maybe one is fried, the other is not? What I'm most concerned about is the sauce, I want the one with the best spicy sauce.

          1. re: JolokiaJen

            The Szechuan Ma Po (麻婆豆腐) Should be the Spiciest of the lot
            Then the Home Style Tofu (家常豆腐) more common in Hunan

            1. re: chefj

              Is Ma Po Tofu the same thing as Bean Curd Szechuan Style? Thanks.

              1. re: JolokiaJen

                At 'my' restaurant which offers all three on their lunch menu, the Szechuan bean curd is vegetarian, the Ma Po has ground pork and the Homestyle has sliced pork. AI am pretty sure each has different sauces, although I have not compared the dishes side by side.

                1. re: Cathy

                  Thanks! That is very helpful. Now I just have to figure out if the sauces are the same.

                  1. re: Cathy

                    In my restaurants, homestyle has always had soft or silken tofu and ground pork and a very savory brown sauce.

                    1. re: mcf

                      Thanks. Does the brown sauce taste similar to the Lo Mein brown sauce? Or is it spicy at all?

                      1. re: JolokiaJen

                        I don't eat noodles or other starches, but IIRC, lo mein noodles were pretty dry sauced? The good home style that I miss terribly from an out of business place had a very warm and rich brown sauce, it's been so long I can't tell you all that was in it...I seem to recall sesame oil and chili oil, even a hint of brown rice vinegar MAYBE.

                        1. re: mcf

                          Vegetable Lo Mein doesn't have a lot of the brownish sauce on it, but it is delicious

                          1. re: JolokiaJen

                            I used to love it. But I haven't eaten starches for many years. Chow fun was even better, much smokier tasting.

                            1. re: mcf

                              What I hate is when I order a vegetable dish and it comes with a white sauce that just tastes like chicken broth on it. I like the brownish sauces. I never know what I'm gonna get though, since there are no descriptions on the menu.

          2. I cannot help with the Sichuan/Szechuan Style, but the Ma Po Tofu at the places I frequent is always cubed tofu with ground meat. The Home Style is always slices of Tofu, coated in cornstarch and either Deep Fried or Pan Fried with some sort of Green Vegetable included.....often Spinach or Shanghai Cabbage.

            6 Replies
            1. re: fourunder

              Thanks. What about the sauces on both of them, are they the same?

              1. re: JolokiaJen

                Ma Po Tofu has Chili Oil and is slightly spicy. Home Style has a light brown sauce with an Oyster Sauce base from my experience.

                BTW....this is in the Northern New Jersey / NYC Chinatown area.

                1. re: fourunder

                  Thanks. I guess I'll get either the Ma Po Tofu or the Bean Curd Szechuan Style since I want the spicy sauce.

                  1. re: JolokiaJen

                    Tell them you want it very spicy/ hot. They should understand and accomodate that request.

                    Ask when you order "Hot- yes?" They will understand that little bit of English.

                    1. re: Cathy

                      At one place I just wrote on a piece of paper Extra Spicy and they knew what that meant.

              2. re: fourunder

                I've never had deep fried tofu in home style. I'm beginning to think these terms are just used variably/interchangeably in U.S. restaurants.

              3. Since there doesn't seem to be any consistent answer to this question, it may be easier to ask your restaurant what the differences are.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Enfielder

                  They don't speak english very well. That's why I came on here to ask. I want to get the right thing because they are priced higher than other items on the menu. If they came in the pints like the lo mein I would just order one of each, but they are $9 each here.