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Jul 28, 2012 08:18 PM

Authentic recipe for mapo tofu?

Despite fairly in-depth Googling, I can't find a recipe for mapo tofu that seems authentic...

They all seem to fiddle with it in some way: no spicy red oil (a must), adding frozen peas (what?), using mushrooms in lieu of pork, and some even using regular black pepper instead of Sichuan peppercorns (!!!).

Anyone have a recipe with lots of oil, ground pork, and real peppercorns? I know all of the basic ingredients, but just need a little guidance.

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  1. How about linking some of the better recipes you find on line, and pointing out specific faults.

    What do you think of this (about the 4th one I looked at via a search)

    1. looks good. Add your own spicy red oil and you are there. Add a little cayenne and I don't think you will miss the spicy red oil.

      How can you go wrong with Fuchisia Dunlop?

      1. In addition to Fuschia Dunlop's excellent version that zzDAn links, Kenji Lopez-Alt has a recipe for what he calls the Real Deal Mapo Dofu. I use less oil to fry the peppercorns and beef (I use pork instead), but otherwise follow the recipe with delicious results.

        1 Reply
        1. re: BigSal

          I made this one last week and it was REALLY good. I used silken tofu (unspecified firmness) and it held together fine.

        2. boy howdy, thanks to you, i was sure having fun on food gawker looking at all the mapo tofu dishes!

          i have pinned several versions, and really got a good feel for checking out which ones to go to precisely because of the photos. this recipe looks pretty darn delicious! and it is from a PBS program, so i think that lends some cred.

          20 Replies
          1. re: alkapal

            " boy howdy, thanks to you, i was sure having fun on food gawker looking at all the mapo tofu dishes! "

            Let a thousand Mapos bloom

            1. re: alkapal

              Wow, that foodgawker link is great - thanks.

              1. re: alkapal

                Interesting that it used the silken tofu (as I've often had it and loved it) because Alton, I think it was, said never to use it due to its fragility.

                1. re: mcf

                  In Sichuan I never had anything but Silken tofu used in this dish and come to think of it I don't think I have seen any restaurant in American use anything but Silken.

                  1. re: RetiredChef

                    I've seen it with soft tofu, never firm. Someone should tell Alton.

                    1. re: mcf

                      There are a lot of things Alton needs to be told ;-)

                      1. re: mcf

                        I've also never had any mapo tofu worth eating that did not use silken tofu.

                        1. re: huiray

                          I sometimes use non-silken firm tofu at home when I make mapo tofu - it's good, but I do prefer firm silken tofu.

                          1. re: huiray

                            I've had very good ones with soft, but I love silken, and I've never had it dissolve the way Alton warns of.

                            1. re: mcf

                              I've only ever had it with soft, not silken. Sounds like it would be messy.

                              1. re: linguafood

                                It's not, cooked properly. Usually very large bits of tofu. They can be a bit difficult to hold onto with chopsticks, but I always use them no prob. Just sort of slide the sticks under the piecies and lift, I guess.

                                1. re: linguafood

                                  I thought silken would be messy too, but if you get FIRM silken, it holds together quite nicely in the sauce, but kind of dissolves on your tongue when you eat it.

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    Maybe firm silken is just another term for "soft"?

                                    1. re: linguafood

                                      It may well be. When I think of "silken" tofu I think of the *Chinese* variation, not the Japanese, which I suspect many posters here default to, and which is more "liquid" than the Chinese varieties.

                                      1. re: huiray

                                        I use Vitasoy's "Multi-Use" tofu for ma po do fu, which falls in between their "Silken" and "Soft" tofus.

                                      2. re: linguafood

                                        No, any tofu not marked "silken" has a distinctly different texture - silken tofu is a lot like a creme caramel or flan custard, whereas regular tofu is spongier and sturdier. Silken comes in soft, medium and firm just like regular tofu does, but firm silken tofu is quite a bit softer than firm regular tofu. Here's a link that explains some of the differences:

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          I get the Nasoya brand, soft, and it appears to be the same texture as the ma po I get at our local Sichuan restaurant.

                                          1. re: linguafood

                                            Hm. I have never bought Nasoya soft, but they do make a silken in addition to soft so I assume it must be somewhat different.

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              In any case, and whichever variety I use, what I often do is to literally hold the block of tofu on my hand and break it apart in my hand into pieces/irregular lumps into the pan/whatever of bubbling stuff - so it really does NOT matter that the tofu "retain its shape". Other times I do cut it up into cubes, but even there retention of the cubic shape is not at all important. What would matter is if the tofu "melted" into a goo, and that has NEVER happened when I make the dish.

                        2. Keep in mind that asking for a single authentic recipe isn't really realistic. It's kinda like asking for "the" authentic recipe for a hamburger or tuna casserole. If you like a lot of oil, add more oil! Once you're working with the right group of ingredients, I think it's more a question of personal taste than "authenticity".

                          That aside, I imagine Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe is probably the closest to what is currently being made in its home province, noting that I believe beef is actually the more "authentic" meat, for what it's worth. At least the basic ratio of seasoning ingredients should be reliable.