Tingling Mapo Tofu: A Fiery Dish Bursting With Flavor
You know the expression: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen?” Well, tingling mapo tofu will make you want to run toward the kitchen. Tingling mapo tofu is a delicious, flavorful dish that invigorates the senses.
If your taste buds have been searching for something more lately, we know you’ll find a renewed love for food here. So today, we want to go over all the details about what tingling mapo tofu is, where it comes from and how to make it.
But don’t fret over any ingredients, Umamicart is here for you for everything you’ll need!
What Is Mapo Tofu?
Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a Sichuan pork and tofu dish that is high in heat and flavor. Your tongue will be overloaded by flavor and spice, not to mention, the tingling effects.
What flavors, you may be asking? Ginger, scallions, garlic, and a whole lot of chili.
Still not sure where the tingling comes from? Citrusy Sichuan peppercorns provide a tingle and numbing effect on the palate as you eat.
What Does Mapo Tofu Taste Like?
Mapo tofu tastes like the ultimate blend of umami sweet heat. It might sound impossible because umami creates a rich, savory flavor, but the zing is real. The umami flavors of the scallions and garlic are amplified into a sweet heat from the chili peppers and garlic.
Umami is a savory quality of your food. However, it is also the ultimate satisfaction you get from your food. Due to the combo of hearty pork, creamy tofu, warming garlic, and spicy ginger and chilis, you can enjoy the sweet, salt, and heat with total pleasure.
What Is the History of Mapo Tofu?
This is a dish that dates back to the 1800s in China, created by an old woman named Mrs. Chen. Tofu has always been one of the most important staple ingredients in Chinese cuisine, so you can see where the first part of the name comes from. The second part is slightly unsavory. Mrs. Chen had a pock-marked face. Ma means “pock,” and “po” means elderly woman.
Mrs. Chen later became known as Chen Mapo, and the restaurant was eventually changed to Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant.
How Did Mapo Tofu Get Its Name?
Sichuan cuisine is all about fresh ingredients with a balance of flavors and aesthetically-pleasing dishes. In order to get the most out of her cooking and readily available ingredients, this dish was created for those that were in search of something quick and delicious.
How Is Mapo Sauce Made?
We don’t want to just tell you how fantastic mapo tofu is. We want you to make it and do the happy dance in your kitchen after your first bite. So here we are: the ingredients and step-by-step process to make your own mapo tofu at home.
What’s the best part about this delightful dish? It takes less than thirty minutes to make. Talk about weekday dinners at its absolute finest!
The list of ingredients can be trickier than the recipe, but we meant it when we said we’ve got everything you’ll need! Here’s what you need to buy:
- Cooking oil
- Ground Sichuan peppercorns
- Minced ginger
- Minced garlic
- Ground pork
- Doubanjiang, a chili bean paste
- Chicken broth
- Chili oil
- Sesame oil
- Scallions, or green onions
- Soft tofu, cut into cubes
Ground Sichuan peppers come whole. We recommend investing in a good mortar and pestle for grinding the peppercorns at home, which adds to the flavor.
Step by Step
Here’s a quick guide to help you get your first homemade mapo tofu on the table:
- Heat cooking oil in a large saute pan (wok preferably, but a traditional saute pan will do in a pinch).
- Add Sichuan peppercorn powder to the oil and quickly toss to coat and toast to release the aromatics.
- Add garlic and ginger and stir quickly for a minute to caramelize.
- Add the ground pork and stir vigorously to break up big chunks. Cook through until all meat is white.
- Once cooked, add the chili paste to the pan and mix to coat the pork.
- Then add chicken broth and let simmer. While it’s simmering, you’ll want to thicken the sauce. Make a cornstarch slurry (made by mixing cornstarch and a few tablespoons of water) and add to the pan. Mix thoroughly and let simmer. It should thicken quickly.
- Add chili oil and mix thoroughly. Then add the tofu and gently mix to coat.
We recommend that you parboil (i.e., cook halfway through a boiling process) before adding to the mapo sauce. This will slightly firm up the tofu, so it won’t fall apart when added but will remain creamy smooth when eaten.
8. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and remove from the heat. Sprinkle with more fresh scallions to garnish would be fantastic for a bright note.
What Kind of Tofu Do I Need for Mapo Tofu?
Soft tofu is what you’ll want to buy. It has the proper texture for this dish. The pork, when cooked, has a firmer texture, and the velvety texture of soft tofu will be pleasing to the palate.
In addition to this, the creamy consistency of the tofu offers a palate cleanser, if you will. Your taste buds will be no match for the delicious sweet heat of mapo tofu, so you’ll need backup.
Soft tofu provides you with a way to keep going back for more.
Pro Tip: boil the tofu in a pot of water for a few minutes before adding it to the mixture. The caramelized texture on the tofu will soak up all the delicious flavors.
How Should Mapo Tofu Be Served?
Like any meal, mapo tofu can be served and eaten how you like. We recommend a bowl of warm jasmine rice, but you can also have a few palate cleanser appetizers on hand. Crab rangoons, potstickers, or spring rolls are delicious side dishes when you need a quick repose from the heat.
Sweet and sour dishes would also work well to contrast mapo tofu’s intense heat. So feel free to explore and add kimchi or sweet and sour sauce for dipping potstickers.
Now we know that many people who love spicy foods aren’t always able to enjoy them without a bit of tummy trouble. In this case, we also suggest a glass of milk on the side to balance the acidity.
The lactic acid in milk will help calm down the taste buds. It’s a sure-fire way to enjoy all the heat of mapo tofu without angering your esophagus too much.
Should Mapo Tofu Be Eaten With Rice?
“Should be” isn’t the way we like to describe food. Just because something should be done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Do we recommend you add mapo tofu to a small bowl of rice? Absolutely. Rice is the perfect vessel to ensure that you don’t miss a drop of the delicious mapo sauce.
Can Mapo Sauce Be Used on Meat Instead?
In short, go for it. You can sub in ground beef for pork, it will just amplify the heartiness of the dish. But again, how you want to eat a dish is how you should make it. So if you aren’t typically someone that gravitates toward pork, you can also use chicken or beef.
If you don't eat meat, you can omit animal protein and sub-out animal product sauces for a delicious vegan mapo tofu dish.
The Bottom Line
Tingling mapo tofu delivers on flavor, satisfaction, and of course, the heat. We have no doubt that you have all you need to start mastering your own mapo tofu at home.
And if you're ready to turn up the heat with this tingling mapo tofu dish, check out Umamicart! You can get your favorite Asian ingredients delivered to your door for a fantastic home cooking experience.