Mapo Tofu

2009 June 5
by linda

Mapo Tofu is a spicy chili and bean based tofu dish originated from Szechuan province, China. According to Wikipedia, the name Mapo (麻婆) is thought to refer to an old pockmarked-face lady by the name of Chen, who invented and sold the dish. Ma stands for “mazi” (Pinyin: mázi Traditional Chinese 麻子,) which means a person disfigured by pockmarks. Po (Chinese 婆) translates as “old woman”. Hence, Ma Po is an old woman whose face was pockmarked. Legend says that the pock-marked old woman (má pó) was a widow who lived in the Chinese city of Cheng Du. Due to her condition, her home was placed on the outskirts of the city. By coincidence, it was near a road where traders often passed. Although the rich merchants could afford to stay within the numerous inns of the prosperous city while waiting for their goods to sell, poor farmers would stay in cheaper inns scattered along the sides of roads on the outskirts of the ancient city.

It is said that the first people who tasted the old woman’s cooking were a farmer and his son who arrived late to the city during a terrible rainstorm. They were forced to find shelter in the old woman’s home having found that all of the inns were full. Pleased with the company, the old woman prepared them a meal, including the dish now known as Ma Po Dou fu. The dish was so delicious that soon each time the father and son passed the old woman’s home, they would stay for a meal. In this way, the old woman’s renown spread as others joined the father and son in visiting and staying at her home. These visitors would often bring the ingredients for her dish so as not to burden her larder. As time passed, the dish evolved.

I am not really a big fan of tofu myself, but since my husband and my son loved them so much, I started to search for various tofu dishes in the web, including Mopo Tofu. I used to buy those Japanese ready mix Mapo Tofu sauce available in the Chinese groceries because buying a Mapo Tofu take away is so damn expensive. However, since I found some great recipes of Mapo Tofu on the internet, I tried to ‘mix and match’ so the flavor suit my family’s taste bud. I never scrambled the tofu as what it is supposed to look like because my toddler loves the tofu as well. If they are scrambled, the sauce would immerse in the tofu and it will be too spicy for a 2 years old. Thank God a little bit of chili never bothers him.

Mapo Tofu


  • 200 gr minced pork/beef
  • 2 tbsp tapioca starch flour
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 red chillies, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fermented salted soy beans (taoco)
  • 1 tbsp red chili paste (sambal cobek)
  • 900 gr tofu (about 12 pcs), cut into 8 pieces each
  • 1 tin of button mushroom, halved
  • 1 cup of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp of tapioca starch flour, diluted with a little bit of water (to thicken the sauce)
  • diced spring onion


  1. Marinated the pork of beef with tapioca starch flour and soy sauce for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat oil in the pan. Fry garlic and red chillies until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the marinated meat in the pan, as well as the salt and pepper to taste, and stir till they turned into brownish colour.
  4. Pour in the fermented salted soy bean and red chili paste. Stir for about 1 – 2 minutes.
  5. Pour the water, tofu, and button mushrooms in the pan. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, diluted the tapioca starch flour and pour into the pan. Stir in quickly and let it simmer for another 4 – 5 minutes.
  7. Put in the dices spring onions and served

Cooking time (minutes): 30

Culinary Tradition: Chinese

Please leave your comment/suggestion if you find this recipe useful. Can’t wait to hear from you and Thank You!!!

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6 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 July 13

    Hi, Thank you for your tips, I will try to cook this tonight. My family are from vietnam really liked spicy Chinese food. Keep up the good post.

  2. 2009 July 13
    linda permalink

    Good luck with that and let me know the result ok. Another thing, you can change the red chili paste with the fresh one. I tried and it tastes different from the paste in the bottle. Water could be replaced with the stock as well. Good luck.

  3. 2009 August 6
    Sumi permalink

    Aduh Lin, yummmmmmmmmmmmmm……..ngiler nih lihatnya. Good work indeed. I’ll try when I get home. Thanks for the post.

  4. 2009 September 23

    Thank you for this recipe!

    • 2009 September 23
      linda permalink

      I am glad that this recipe could be presented in other family dining table ;)
      Very please.. Thank you for trying my recipe



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