Mapo Tofu or Mapo doufu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It consists of tofu set in a spicy chili-and bean-based sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often cooked with douchi and minced meat, usually pork or beef. Variations exist with other ingredients such as water chestnuts, onions, other vegetables, or wood ear fungus.
"Ma" stands for "ma-zi" which means pockmarks. "Po" is the first syllable of "popo" 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".
Authentic Mapo doufu is powerfully spicy with both conventional "heat" spiciness and the characteristic "mala" (numbing spiciness) flavor of Sichuan cuisine. The feel of the particular dish is often described by cooks using seven specific Chinese adjectives: Âé (numbing), À± (spicy hot), ÌÌ (hot temperature), ÏÊ (fresh), ÄÛ (tender and soft), Ïã (aromatic), and ËÖ (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 (Û¯ÏØ¶¹°ê½´), fermented black beans, chili oil, chili flakes of the heaven-facing pepper (³¯ÌìÀ±½·), Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, green onions, and rice wine.
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.