Mapo Tofu Recipe

Mapo Tofu Recipe Recipe

I made a variation of mapo tofu using ingredients I had available in the kitchen today. Instead of using fermented black bean sauce, I prepared a thick and spicy sauce with tomatoes, chili bean sauce and dried red chiles. I also added diced carrots and peas to the traditional silken tofu for a bit more nutrition. If you want to tone down the spiciness, you could replace it with sweet and sour sauce instead.

This is a quick and easy vegetarian meal when we’re running out of ingredients and I'm just too lazy to run to the grocery store. Onions, carrots and frozen peas are always on hand in our kitchen and they go great together, so I often use them when I make mapo tofu. You can use pretty much whatever veggies are in your pantry though, so be creative!


Yields: 6 servings

1 (18-ounce) package silken soft tofu
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 (1-inch) chunk ginger
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes
½ teaspoon grated palm sugar
2 teaspoons white miso paste
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
12 dried red chiles, stemmed
1-½ tablespoons tapioca starch (or corn starch)
2 cups homemade vegetable stock (canned vegetable broth or water)
1 (16-ounce) package packages frozen peas, thawed


Prepping the tomatoes: This step is optional but I find tomato skin unpleasant. Here's a neat method to peel tomatoes. Make a small, shallow criss-cross cut at the bottom of the fresh tomatoes using a bread knife (I use a bread knife because the blade won't bruise the fruit). Fill a small saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Place the tomatoes in the water and wait for at least 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes quickly (I use a large strainer or a slotted spoon), then transfer to an ice cold bath to stop the cooking process. The skin will come right off. Coarsely chop the flesh. Set aside.

Prepping the tofu: Drain the liquid from the package of tofu. Slice the tofu in four large pieces, horizontally. Silken tofu is very delicate, so be very careful and gentle. Set aside.

For the ginger: Clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife (or the edge of a spoon). Grate the ginger with a fine mesh microplane. Gather about 2 teaspoons of grated ginger root. Set aside.

Assembly time:

In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the diced carrots and cook until all sides are brown and golden. Transfer to a plate, leaving as much oil as possible in the wok. Add more oil if necessary. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until nicely golden (it may take 5-10 minutes). Once the onions are cooked, add the red chiles and grated ginger. Toss until fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they're soft and mushy.

Meanwhile, mix the tapioca starch, miso paste, palm sugar, about 1/3 cup of vegetable stock and chili bean sauce. Whisk well. Set aside.

In the same wok, add the remaining vegetable stock to the tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Whisk the tapioca mixture one more time to prevent the starch from sticking to the bottom of the wok. Add the tapioca liquid to the boiling broth. Continuously stir the broth as it will thicken very quickly. 

Pour in the green peas, carrots and tofu. Check the texture of the sauce; it should be thickened and syrupy. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water. Gently stir the mapo tofu; the spoon will break the silken tofu pieces in large chunks. Cook for about 2 minutes.  Adjust seasoning. Season with more salt (if necessary). Cover and let stand until ready to serve.

Serve with steamed rice. I served mine with brown rice for a healthier meal.

Bon appétit!


You use store-bought Lee Kum Kee brand chili bean sauce. You can find it in Asian markets and the Asian  food isle of many supermarkets.

Silken tofu can be found in grocery stores now but I prefer the one from the Korean or Japanese store. I find its texture to be creamier. Make sure you check for silken soft tofu and not firm on the package. I bought it at a local store, called Galleria. The address is 3531 El Camino Real, Sant Clara, CA 95061.

One tip to get a perfect sauce is to "over" thicken the broth prior to adding the vegetables. When you add the vegetables, the veggies will release their own liquid and will balance the texture of the sauce.

Miso paste is a great source of protein for a vegetarian diet. I buy white miso paste (shiro miso) at the Korean store. It's less salty than regular miso. Don't be frightened by the size of miso containers sold in markets. Miso paste stores well in the refrigerator and you can make other dishes with it such as Asian salad dressing, other soup broths, sauces and vegetarian gravy.

miso paste picture

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on October 12, 2010.


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