Mapo Tofu (麻婆豆腐) is one of the classic Sichuan-style Chinese dishes, involving tofu and minced meat in a spicy chili and fermented bean sauce. If you had mapo tofu in Taiwan, their dishes are known to be very, very spicy and their sauce is normally bright red. No worries, I won’t be posting something very, very spicy here. I will add a few notes in the Spicy Mapo Tofu recipe if you love spicy foods, and my partner Doni is a huge fan of spicy foods (he will eat jalapeños with seeds in them anytime). In my photographs, the lovely sauces are hidden in the bowl (I wish I can show more details in sauce, my apologies). Next time, I will put them in a pan, so I can show you the lovely sauce.
Instead of the traditional pork mince, I used the Upton’s Naturals Traditional Seitan. You can use any original or standard seitan (without any extra flavors) as long as it is minced or easy to mince. To mince the traditional seitan, use a food processor and grind it in a couple one-second pulses, until it looks somewhat minced.
- Pull apart the traditional seitan into chunks. Put them in food processor to form ground "meat." Grind it in couple one-second pulses, until it looks somewhat minced.
- In a small mixing bowl, add sesame oil, sugar, light soy sauce and pinch of sea salt. Add the minced seitan, stir and set it aside for couple of minutes.
- Heat a wok over medium heat, add cooking and chili oil. Add minced ginger and garlic until fragrant. Add spicy bean paste. Mix well. Add the marinated minced seitan immediately and stir fry for about 1 minute. Then add in ground dried chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns and stir-fry until aromatic.
- Add tofu and 1/2 cup hot water, stir gently. It should look bit saucy.
- Add 1-3 teaspoons of starch to thicken up the sauce. Add 1/2 at a time until the sauce thickens. Add salt to taste. Garnish with green onions and enjoy with rice.
Don't like seitan? Use tempeh or shiitake mushrooms.
To ground Thai red chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add dried chili peppers or peppercorns (separately, not together) and keep stirring until slightly charred on all sides or fragrant for the peppercorns. Using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, grind them into a fine powder (you may see some seeds and skin, it is optional to remove these for ground powder). Always handle chili peppers with caution. Transfer to a bowl and set it aside. For a spicier dish, add more Sichuan peppercorns and dried Thai red chili peppers.
The Szechuan-Style Hot Bean Sauce (MSG-Free) is also used in my Taiwanese “Beef” Noodle Soup. You will see the product very often in the next couple of Asian dishes. It is a Taiwanese brand, and has very few ingredients: soybean, wheat flour, fresh chili, salt, sugar, water and citric acid. It contains no MSG. You can find them at your Asian markets (The cans look blue & yellow as pictured and titled, Szechuan Hot Bean Sauce).