Chinese invented Tofu, and they love to eat many kinds of tofu including soft tofu. There are so many ways to cook soft tofu, but the most famous soft tofu dish is probably “Ma Po Tofu”. Now a day, no matter in which area of China, you may find this dish on the menu of almost all restaurants.
The name of the dish means Ma Po’s Tofu Dish. Ma Po was a lady who was operating a small restaurant with her husband in Chengdu city, Sichuan province 160 years ago. “Ma” is not her last name but her husband’s last name. By then, Chinese ladies carried their husband’s last name after they married. Ma Po used Sichuan local seasonings for this dish. i.e. Sichuan peppercorn which gives the distinctive numb feeling. However, the soul of this dish is the “hot chilli broad bean paste” which is also called the soul of Sichuan cuisine. There are four famous cuisines in China which originated from four provinces, Sichuan(川菜), Anhui（徽菜）, Shandong（鲁菜） and Guangzhou（粤菜）. The most authentic hot chill broad bean paste is produced from 郫县(Pi county) in Sichuan, which is named as “郫县豆瓣”. Tofu is a good source of protein for vegetarian people. However, if you are a vegetarian and traveling in China, don’t assume it is a vegetarian dish if you order the Ma Po Tofu. Because many Chinese chefs like to add lard as part of the cooking oil for this dish. Actually, the chefs in Chinese restaurant like to use lard to cook many vegetable dishes to enhance the flavour.
1.1. Little Background on soft tofu called Ma po Tofu
Soft tofu is a good source of protein for vegetarian people. However, if you are a vegetarian traveling in China, don’t assume your Ma po Tofu is meat free. Indeed many Chinese chefs like to add lard as part of the cooking oil for this dish. Actually, the chefs in Chinese restaurant like to use lard to cook many vegetable dishes to enhance the flavour.
2. Cooking Time
Cooking time: 3hours approx
Servings: 5 people
❣️1 piece of firm tofu 300g
❣️200g cooked beef or ground beef
❣️4 table spoons of vegetable cooking oil
❣️1 and half table spoon of hot broad-bean paste
❣️30 Sichuan purple pepper corns
❣️1 table spoon of chilli flakes （optional if you can not handle too hot flavour)
❣️1 table spoon of fermented soy bean (optional also if you can not take the strong flavour)
❣️3 cloves of garlic
❣️2 slices of ginger
❣️2 spring onions
❣️1 table spoon of corn starch mixed with 80ml of water
❣️150ml chicken broth or just water
❣️1 table spoon of rice cooking wine
❣️5 drops of dark colour soy sauce
– Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes, blanch in the boiling water for 1 minute
– Chop the broad-bean paste finely
– Roast the pepper corns under low fire until you can smell the aroma, then granulate into powder
– Chop the garlic, ginger and spring onions
5. Cooking Steps
■ Add the cooking oil in the heated wok, then the fermented soy bean and cook for 30 seconds under medium fire
■ Add the chilly flakes
■ Then the garlic and ginger, and stir for 10 seconds under low fire
■ Move the wok away from the fire and add the broad-bean paste. Then stir for 20 seconds.
■ Add the rice cooking wine
■ Then the cooked beef or ground beef (stir for 2 minutes if you use raw ground beef).
■ Add the chicken broth
■ Add the tofu cubes
■ Cover the lid, and set the fire to medium-low for 3 to 4 minutes
■ Mix the corn starch with the water, add into the wok in 3 waves, and stir well.
■ Add the spring onions in, and turn off the fire immediately.
■ Take out to a plate, sprinkle the pepper corn powder on top.
■ Serve after 5 minutes