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Mapo Tofu
History and Stories

Mapo Tofu is a typical dish of Sichuan(Szechuan) style cuisine. It started in Qing Dynasty(1862), invented by a small restaurant owner Mrs Chen. As Mrs Chen had pockmark on her face while the pronunciation of pockmark in Chinese is "Ma",the tofu she cooked is called Mapo Tofu. Po is the pronunciation of old lady in Chinese.

Chen's restaurant was located in suburb of Chengdu(a city of Sichuan). Originally most of her customers were transport workers. They used to buy beef and tofu asking Chen to cook for them. Long time later, Mrs. Chen grasped unique tofu cooking technique. Mapo Tofu became very famous. Outside her restaurant there always lined up a long queue. People were eager to taste her tofu. Many poets were attracted by Mapo Tofu, often gathered here. They left many poems about Mapo tofu. Mapo tofu became more famous.

The features of Mapo tofu can be described by eight Chinese words: 麻(ma)、辣(la)、烫(tang)、香(xiang)、酥(su)、嫩(nen)、鲜(xian)、活(huo). Below is the explanation of these features.

Ma (numbing) is from Sichuan (Szechuan) pepper powder  added in the dish after cooked and before turning off heat. The best Sichuan pepper is a tribute pepper from Hanyuan, a county of Sichuan. The flavor of Hanyuan pepper is refresh and pure. In 1930s because of the domestic war Hanyuan pepper was run out of. Mapo restaurant couldn't get it even if they offered higher price. To maintain its high quality standard the restaurant stopped to sale Mapo tofu for a period of time. This event gained Mapo restaurant a high reputation. (Now Pixian broadbean chilli paste is usually used)

La (spicy hot): The broad bean paste is made with a special chilli pepper near Longtan temple area in Sichuan. It's finely cut and added in a little cooked oil and other chilli peppers when making Mapo tofu. Fragrant and hot spicy!

Tang (hot in temperature): Sent to the customers and served as soon as cooked. The higher temperature, the more hot and spicy, the more soft and tender.

Xiang (aromatic): No tofu odor, no water odor, nor other odors from other ingredients; only fragrance that ignites your appetite.

Su (flaky): Referring beef grains. These ground beef are golden color, red and flaky, and melted as soon as your teeth touch them.

Nen (soft and tender): Tofu is cut and cooked well, white as a jade, square shape with edges and corners. It'll be smashed as soon as touched. Spoon should be used when serving.

Xian (fresh): All the ingredients are fresh. The whole dish is fresh and tender. The color is white and red, ornamented by jade green color.

Huo (live): The jade green color is green onion. It stands upright in the bowl, as if picked from a farm just now. But it's cooked and no raw flavor when serve.

Mapo tofu calories

137 kcal for per 100g.

Cooking Mapo tofu doesn't need too much cooking oil. But it's stir fried in chilli paste,so it looks like a lot of oil is added. You can have a test at home. 200g soft tofu only needs one tablespoon oil. Firmed tofu needs more. However, this dish really promotes your appetite. You'll eat much steamed rice unconsciously. So it's not recommended to serve during your diet plan. Actually, almost all Sichuan dishes have this problem.

Sichuan is dampness. People eat lots of hot&spicy foods to remove that damp. People from other places don't need to eat so much spicy food. Adding a little Pixian paste is enough for cooking a not-very-spicy-mapo-tofu. Eating too much hot&spicy food may cause inflammation.

Here is a simple vegetarian Mapo tofu recipe made in minutes.

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