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  • Writer's pictureLuis and JudyAnn

Surprisingly Savory and Soft-silken Mapo Tofu

Tender tofu cooked in an aromatic and spicy sauce, accompanied by minced meat, Mapo Tofu is a fiery Sichuan beef and tofu stir-fry with the balance of tongue tingling and spicy.

Some days, you absolutely must make dinner from a box. The reason why almost doesn’t matter, because it really could be anything. You’re tired! You’re hungry! Mapo tofu is a beloved Sichuan dish consisting of soft tofu and ground meat in a spicy, tingly sauce, thickened with fermented black and broad beans. Making a simplified version from scratch isn’t very difficult; many recipes call for a scoop of jarred black bean garlic sauce, which is easy to find at Asian markets and many well-stocked grocery stores. But the House Foods box (which contains a silvery pouch of sauce) makes creating the dish at home even easier still. Like any good instant food, it requires just two additional ingredients: one package of tofu, and a bit of ground meat. You brown the meat, add the sauce, add the tofu, and simmer. In the same amount of time it takes to cook a pot of rice, you have a comforting dinner.

In many parts of the world, tofu is a vastly misunderstood ingredient; maligned as a pale meat imitation, it's no wonder so many people turn their noses up at it. Well, we're here to set the record straight: tofu is emphatically not a meat substitute. It's an ingredient in it's own right and a delicious one at that. Indeed, in many traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes, it's prepared together with meat in a single dish.

The origin of mapo tofu can be traced to 1862 in the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911). A small restaurant called the Chen Xingsheng Restaurant near Wanfu Bridge in Chengdu was run by a couple surnamed Chen. Unpleasantly, the mapo in mapo tofu comes from the pock-marked face of Mrs. Chen—ma meaning pock and po meaning elderly woman. Oil porters crossing the bridge would use their own stock to save money, and ask the Chen restaurant to make them something nice.

Mapo tofu tastes spicy: both conventionally spicy with heat on your tongue, and málà, a numbing kind of spicy that is characteristic of Sichuan food. The sauce is pleasingly oily, which ampliflies the spiciness and flavor. It also has a deeply savoriness to it thanks to the umami from the doubanjiang. Also key is the texture play mapo tofu has going on: the silky creaminess from the soft tofu coats your tongue and the crispy-ish bits of pork add a pleasing contrast to the overall softness and sauciness of the dish. Mapo tofu is soul food and maybe the best comfort food out there, especially when paired with perfectly fluffy rice.

Heartwarming, comforting and bewitchingly addictive, this is one of the most famous Sichuanese dishes, and epitomizes the spicy generosity of the folk cooking of the region.The dish is an umami-heavy whirlwind of mouth-numbing spice, rich beef and fermented seasonings. The recipe is similar, preparation-wise, to that of a ragù and has flavors that will excite your imagination and induce cravings of this new “American cuisine.”


  1. 1 box House Foods mabo tofu sauce

  2. 1 block of medium-firm tofu

  3. 1 lbs. of ground beef

  4. 1 tbs. vegetable oil

  5. 1/2 cup of chopped green onions

  6. 1 chopped sweet onion


  1. Heat oil in skillet or wok on medium heat.

  2. Sweat sweet onions until translucent and brown ground beef.

  3. Add House Foods mabo tofu sauce and bring to a simmer.

  4. Gently stir in cubed tofu and simmer again.

  5. Garnish with chopped green onions.


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