Mapo tofu, ma pu tofu, ma-po tofu, mapo doufu, mapu doufu, ma-po doufu are all the same thing, sometimes the Chinese words and recipe get lost in translation. In any case Mapo Tofu is a Sichuan province dish made up of tofu, chili, bean paste, and ground pork.  Generally it is pretty spicy and has lots of red chili oil suspended all around it.  But to me it is a  home cooked favorite, consisting of boxed mapo tofu sauce, tofu, and ground pork.  Yes I know this is the easy way out but have you ever met a person that loves canned tomato soup, or boxed mac and cheese.  Personally I don’t like either of them, but I know a lot of people that do love these prepackaged mass produced food products.  Of course, you don’t eat it because it is a quality food product, but you do continue to eat it when you’re old and gray because it reminds you of when you were young.  It’s these tastes that separates us and our personal food preferences.  You’ll always love what you’re use to. So in this case, it’s much of the same.  My aunt use to make Mapo Tofu out of the box and I loved it over a big bowl of rice. Now, I’m going to share one of my most favorite and simple dishes in the world.  It’s super easy and hopefully you enjoy it.

Recipe

Difficulty Level: 1 – Heat, stir, and have a beer.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 8 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes
Real people serving size:3

Ingredients:
1 box House brand Mapo Tofu sauce (hot) (IMPORTANT! use only HOUSE BRAND)
1/2-3/4 pound ground pork
1 package silken tofu 19oz
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 green onion (optional for garnish)
1 tbs vegetable oil
salt to taste
white pepper to taste

Directions:
Poor vegetable oil into pan and saute the ground pork. Make sure that the pork gets separated into little bits.
Add white pepper, soy sauce, additional hot sauce (optional)
Drain and cut the tofu into 1″-1.5″ squares (larger is better than smaller since it’ll break apart)
Add tofu to the pan when the pork is almost cooked.
Then add the House brand mapo tofu sauce.
Liquids from the tofu and pork will thin the sauce out a little.
Fold in the sauce gently until everything is mixed well and simmer for a 3 minutes or until tofu is hot.

Done, it’s super easy. Garnish with green onion and serve it with some rice and you’re good to go.
Now you might be wondering why I like House brand sauce so much, well it is what I grew up on. It’s like going to Mcdonalds vs Burger King. Anyhow, there are lots of mapo tofu sauces out there and I encourage you to try them but in my opinion House brand tastes the best. And I haven’t quite figured out why but it is also 3x more expensive than the other brands. Maybe it’s branding, maybe it’s the quality of the sauce, maybe it’s because it’s from Japan, yes who would have thought, but those Japanese know how to improve on everything.

Options
As far as options you can either make it spicier with more hot sauce or get the mild flavored sauce which is not hot at all. Ground chicken, turkey, beef, can all be used but I can’t promise anything. I also prefer silken tofu because I like the texture and it mixes with rice easily, but you can use soft tofu but I wouldn’t go any firmer than soft. If you prefer a vegetarian version, I’d probably add some shitake mushrooms and yellow onions.
The best thing about Mapo tofu is that the left overs can be used as a sauce. So you can adapt it to our dishes such as Mapo tofu ramen, Mapo tofu fried rice, or even Mapo tofu fried noodles.

Traditional Recipe
My boxed version is spicy but compared to the real deal, it’s mild. So here’s a traditional recipe of Mapo tofu for your reference.

Ingredients:
1/2-3/4 pound ground pork
1 package silken tofu 19oz
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbs hot chili bean paste
1 tsp hot chili oil
2 whole dry red chilies
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (ground)
1 tsp Chinese black beans (mashed)
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 green onion (optional for garnish)
1 tbs vegetable oil

Directions:
The directions are similar to the box recipe.
Start by adding vegetable oil to the pan and stir fry the minced garlic with the mashed black beans for a few seconds, don’t burn them.
Add in ground pork and saute until it’s mostly cooked and broken down to little bits.
Add soy sauce, hot chili bean paste, chili oil, dry red chilies, and powder Sichuan peppercorns
Stir for a minute and then add in chicken stock.
Add tofu last and fold into sauce and pork.
Let simmer for 3 minutes or until tofu is hot.
Add 1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 tbs cold water if you like it thicker.

Now be prepared, it’s going to be hot hot hot. So you might want to start without the dry chili and chili oil.
Alright there you go enjoy the Mapo tofu recipe.