Ma-Po tofu (or Mapo tofu) is a combination of silken tofu and stir-fried vegetables in a chili garlic and black bean-flavored sauce. The sauce is a thick, (non-runny) spicy brown broth. It's a very popular vegetarian dish on the menu of many Chinese restaurants. Now you can make your own without stepping out of the house.
You can make it non-veggie by adding thin slices of beef quickly sautéed in garlic and scallions.
Servings: 6 servings
1 (12-ounce) package silken tofu
3 tablespoons tapioca starch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon black bean sauce
2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce, to taste
1 (14 ounce) can low sodium vegetable broth, as needed
2 green onions, thinly chopped
1 fresh Serrano chili pepper, sliced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced
½ cup carrots, shredded
½ cup red bell pepper, sliced
½ cup green beans, chopped
4 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground
1 tablespoon cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil, optional
Drain the liquid from the package of tofu. Slice the tofu in two, horizontally. Silken tofu is very delicate and easily breakable. Gently cut the tofu into 1/2-inch square cubes. Set aside.
Mix the tapioca starch, soy sauce, about 1/3 cup of broth, chili garlic and black bean sauces. Set aside.
Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a wok. When the oil is hot, add a teaspoon of garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, stir-fry the green beans. When the color becomes almost translucent, season with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt. This will help keep a nice green color. Cook for about another minute. Don't overcook the vegetables as they will continue cooking in the broth later. Transfer to a plate. Repeat the same procedure three times (oil, garlic, stir-fry the vegetables, season with salt, transfer to a plate) with the bell pepper, the carrots and shiitake mushrooms. Set the plate aside.
In the same wok, drizzle a little more oil. Place the slices of Serrano chili. This will help bring a nice fragrance to the dish. Add the remaining broth. Bring to a boil. Mix the tapioca mixture 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 the vegetables and cubed tofu into the wok. Check the texture of the sauce, it should be thick and syrupy. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add 2 to 4 tablespoon of water. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the sliced green onions. Stir gently as the silken tofu can break.
Sprinkle with black pepper and the chopped cilantro. Drizzle with sesame oil.
Serve immediately with steamed rice. I served mine with brown rice for a healthier meal.
The soy sauce adds saltiness to the dish and a nice amber brown color. My favorite soy sauce is the Da Bo De brand. It has a very nice flavor and is not too salty. You can find this particular sauce in downtown San Jose, at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 South 2nd St, in San Jose. Well, it's not the prettiest. This is one of the best "ethnic" grocery stores in the area.
You can use store-bought black bean and chili garlic sauce like the one from Lee Kum Kee. It's just that my husband grew so many habanero and Thai chiles last summer. We ended up with a whole box full, so I decided to make batches of chili garlic sauce. You can check for the recipe of tướng ớt, literally "spicy dipping sauce" in Vietnamese, it's ultra easy.
A fast and easy way to shred carrots is with this wonderful gadget from Messermeister. It's THE best utensil for julienning vegetables. Is that a verb?
Silken tofu can be found in any store now but I prefer the one from the Korean store. I find its texture to be creamier. Make sure you check for silken tofu and not firm on the package.
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.