Mapo doufu (Chinese: 麻婆豆腐; pinyin: mápó dòufu) is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It consists of tofu set in a spicy sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, based on douban (fermented broad bean and chili paste) and douchi (fermented black beans), along with minced meat, traditionally beef.[1] Variations exist with other ingredients such as water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus. One account indicates that the dish existed as early as 1862, in a suburb of the sub-provincial city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province.[2]

Mapo doufu
A plate of mapo doufu
Place of originChina
Region or stateSichuan
Main ingredientsTofu, douban (fermented broadbean and chili paste), and douchi (fermented black beans), along with minced meat
Mapo doufu
Mapo doufu (Chinese characters).svg
"Mapo doufu" in Chinese characters
Hanyu Pinyinmápó dòufu
Literal meaning"pockmarked old woman beancurd"

Etymology and historyEdit

"Ma" stands for "ma-zi" (Chinese: mázi, 麻子) which means pockmarks. "Po" is the first syllable of "popo" (Chinese: 婆婆, pópo) which means an old woman or grandma. Hence, mapo is an old woman whose face is pockmarked. It is thus sometimes translated as "pockmarked grandma's beancurd".

According to Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook: "Eugene Wu, the Librarian of the Harvard Yenching Library, grew up in Chengdu and claims that as a schoolboy he used to eat Pock-Marked Ma's Bean Curd or mapo doufu, at a restaurant run by the original Pock-Marked Ma herself. One ordered by weight, specifying how many grams of bean curd and meat, and the serving would be weighed out and cooked as the diner watched. It arrived at the table fresh, fragrant, and so spicy hot, or la, that it actually caused sweat to break out."[3]

In Japan, the dish was introduced and popularized by the Sino-Japanese chef Chen Kenmin. His son, Chen Kenichi, made it more popular as it was one of his trademark dishes on the television program Iron Chef.[4][5][6]


Authentic mapo doufu is powerfully spicy with both conventional "heat" spiciness and the characteristic málà (numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. The feel of the particular dish is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: 麻 (numbing), 辣 (spicy hot), tāng 烫 (hot temperature), xiān 鲜 (fresh), nèn 嫩 (tender and soft), xiāng 香 (aromatic), and 酥 (flaky). The authentic form of the dish is increasingly easy to find outside China today, but usually only in Sichuanese restaurants that do not adapt the dish for non-Sichuanese tastes.

The most important and necessary ingredients in the dish that give it the distinctive flavour are chili broad bean paste (salty bean paste) from Sichuan's Pixian county (郫县豆瓣酱), fermented black beans, chili oil, chili flakes of the heaven-facing pepper (朝天辣椒), Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, green onions, and rice wine.[7] Supplementary ingredients include water or stock, sugar (depending on the saltiness of the bean paste brand used), and starch (if it is desired to thicken the sauce).[8]


Mapo doufu can also be found in restaurants in other Chinese provinces as well as in Japan and Korea where the flavor is adapted to local tastes. In the west, the dish is often greatly changed, with its spiciness severely toned down to widen its appeal. This happens particularly in Chinese restaurants not specialising in Sichuan cuisine. In American Chinese cuisine, the dish is often made without meat to appeal to vegetarians, using shiitakes or other edible mushrooms as substitutes to meat, as with very little spice, a thick sweet-and-sour sauce, and added vegetables, a stark contrast from the original dish.[citation needed]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dunlop, Fuchsia (2001). Land of Plenty. W. W. Norton Company. pp. 313. ISBN 0393051773.
  2. ^ Kwan, KP. "How to cook the authentic Mapo Tofu". Taste of Asian Food. Taste of Asian Food. Retrieved August 27, 2019.
  3. ^ Schrecker, Ellen with Shrecker, John. Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook. New York, Harper & Row, 1976. p. 220.
  4. ^ "Moodi Foodi". Facebook. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Chen Kenmin". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Chen Kenichi Mabo Tofu - Tokyo Eats". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Mapo Tofu" (in Chinese). Baidu. Retrieved 27 April 2013.
  8. ^ "Mapo tofu practice". Meishi China (in Chinese). Retrieved 27 April 2013.

External linksEdit