Mapo Tofu | Hong Kong Food Blog with Recipes, Cooking Tips mostly of Chinese and Asian styles | Taste Hong Kong

Mapo Tofu

Chinese Sichuan Mapo Tofu

Typical of the Sichuan (四川) cuisine, mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) is a dish also typical of what I like about the foods of this province in south-western China.

To describe the numbing and spicy tastes of this dish, we specifically term them in Chinese as ma-la (麻辣). Perhaps the tongue-numbing flavor (ma 麻) from peppercorns is so distinctive and unique that it is never said in reverse order, la-ma.

Learned to eat the hot Sichuan dishes for ages, regrettably, when it comes to mastering the degree of spiciness in mouth, I believe I am still a beginner. Here I have tried to stretch my limits to include the right amount of chili pepper and chili paste, but still, I believe there should be room to multiply the heat level for chili lovers.

This dish is also known as Pock-marked Grandma’s Beancurd or Pock-marked Lady’s Chen Dou Fu, a name said to reflect its creator as told in a folklore below.

Chinese Sichuan Mapo Tofu

  • Ingredients
  • 2 pcs soft tofu (aka beancurd or dou fu) , ~200g
  • 100g ground pork (or beef)
  • 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, grounded
  • 2 dried red chilies, 1 coarsely chopped, 1 for garnishing
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 tsp fermented black bean, mashed
  • 1 tbsp chili bean paste, I used the same one for Hot and Sour Soup
  • 2 tbsp oil for frying
  • potato flour or corn starch paste (1/2 tsp flour : 2 tsp water)
  • 1 tsp coriander or spring onion, finely chopped
  • Seasonings
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

Ingredients for Chinese Sichuan Mapo Tofu

  • Marinades for pork
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp wine
  • 1/4 tsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp oil
  • Salted water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 cups water

Chinese Sichuan Mapo Tofu


Marinade ground pork and let it stand for about 15 minutes.

Dice tofu into about 1cm cubes. Bring salted water to a boil, add diced tofu.

When water boils again, keep simmering over low heat for another 1 minute. Drain tofu.

Over medium flame, heat oil in wok. Brown garlic, ginger first and then add in fermented black beans, dried chilies and chili bean paste. Sauté until fragrant, about half a minute.

Toss in marinated meat; mash any bigger meat lumps while stir-frying (sprinkle in 2 to 3 table spoons of water if you find it a little bit dry). When the pork is almost done, gently place in drained tofu. Turn to low flame, carefully flip and turn with a turner rather than fiercely stirring them to avoid breaking up tofu. Add peppercorns, seasonings, and gently mix well.

Thicken with potato flour or corn starch paste. Sprinkle in coriander. Dish up, garnish with chili pepper. Serve hot.


Toast the peppercorns in oven or toaster in low heat until fragrant before grounding. In case the peppercorns are a bit gritty after grounded, sieve them first.

Why Pock-marked Chen’s Tofu?

In the 19th Century, a lady and her husband Chen ran a tofu shop in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, where many oil traders passed through. Oil porters had enjoyed Chen’s various inexpensive dishes made of tofu yet were also tired of them as time went by. One day, a porter brought Chen a good amount of oil and asked her to cook a different dish … With some handy ingredients including chili peppers, peppercorns, fermented black beans, and grounded beef, the lady owner thereby cooked another dish with tofu. That tofu dish had become so famed that it was then named after her, Ma Po (麻婆) because the small pocks on her face in Chinese was abbreviated as ‘Ma’ and ‘Po’ was loosely used to called older women.

However, the ‘Ma’ here has no relation with the numbing ‘ma’.

To get immediate updates and new recipes from my blog, you may also SUBSCRIBE them via RSS feeds. See you there.


Thank you for visiting, I would love to hear from you as much as I love to put up posts here ...
  1. Angie's Recipes

    Can’t get enough of mapo tofu! More rice, please!

  2. Christine@Christine's Recipes

    That’s the first dish I tried the Sichuan (四川) cuisine and fell in love with it ever since. I like it medium hot and go with a big bowl of rice.

  3. tigerfish

    Me too! Can’t get enough of this spicy-numb good stuff! 😀

  4. Little Inbox

    This is my favorite too! I like to add mushroom to it.

  5. penny aka jeroxie

    since my mum is here. I should make this for her! she loves her chilli

  6. Tastes of Home (Jen)

    mapo dofu is such a classic! thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to try your version 🙂

  7. Lisa H.

    My favourite… I always buy the ready mix packet…
    beautiful dish and photo

  8. Mei Teng

    Your version of mapo tofu looked really delicious and appetising. I love eating tofu.

  9. mycookinghut

    Love mapo tofu!!

  10. Wendy

    Any chance you may have the recipe for steamed Malay sponge cake they sell in the dim sum restaurant? I cannot find a recipe that yields the brown color and fragrance. Thanks.

  11. TasteHongKong

    If you are referring to 馬拉糕, I’m afraid I had trashed the recipe cause it didn’t turn out as good as the ones I like. If I do it nice one day, I’ll share with you here.

  12. Sook

    Oh I love this dish! It is saved!! 🙂 Yours looks a bit spicier than mine which is totally awesome! I will try this soon!

  13. Patty

    What a lovely history of mapo dofu! I am in LOVE with mapo dofu! I ate this dish almost everyday during my stay in Beijing – i’ve tried to make it here in the U.S, but could never find a recipe that created an authentic dish. I have no doubt that your dish will present itself as the winner. Your photos are amazing. Thank you!

  14. Mary Moh

    Wow…it does look very spicy. I like spicy food but not that ‘ma la’ taste. I love mapo tofu…very delicious.

  15. TasteHongKong

    @Mary Moh,
    Yes, it does look as if there is a large amount of spicy red oil. But part of it actually is liquid leached from the tofu, which therefore is not as hot as it appears.

  16. Quay Po Cooks

    Interesting read about the history of mapo dofu. Great shots!

  17. Amy @ cookbookmaniac

    I’ve been looking for a tasty tofu and mince recipe. This looks delicious!

  18. Juliana

    Oh! Mapo Tofu from scratch…I usually cheat by using the ready made sauce…will have to try the “real” way to make mapo tofu 🙂

  19. Esther x3baking

    I like the little story about Mapo tofu! I never even thought about why it was named that way. 🙂 Yummy!

  20. Pepy @Indonesia Eats

    We call this sapo tahu or tofu. Good to know the history of mapo tofu. I do love Sichuan foods. 🙂

  21. noobcook

    This is one of my fave Chinese dishes … just give me this dish and white rice and I’ll be a super happy person 😀

  22. Sharon

    The instant I saw this title it just jumped out at me. I LOVE mapo tofu. A LOT. Definitely will try this recipe out 😀