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Mapo Tofu (Grandma’s Tofu)

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Mapo tofu or sometimes called grandma’s tofu is a famous classic dish in Sichuan cuisine that is named after its inventor. The creation of mapo tofu dated all the way back to 1892 during the era of the Qing Dynasty (1616 – 1911). There was a couple with the family name Chen who owns and run a small restaurant called Chen Xingsheng restaurant in Chengdu. The naming of this dish came from the pockmarks (“ma” in Mandarin), scarring of the face of Mrs Cheng from smallpox during her childhood and “po” means old lady or grandma.  Mapo tofu is basically soy bean curd tofu prepared in a spicy chilli and bean sauce. Usually minced beef or pork and sometimes minced chicken are added as one of the main ingredients alongside tofu. But vegetarian versions are also available for this much loved classic dish.


Characteristics of Mapo Tofu Dish

An authentic mapo tofu dish is usually defined as containing seven characteristics of : 麻(ma – numbing), 辣(la –  spicy), (tang – hot),香(xiang – aromatic),酥(su – flaky or crumbly), 嫩(nen – soft and tender) and (xian – fresh). There are many variations of mapo tofu in China and in Chinese restaurants worldwide, usually the hot and spicy and numbing effects of this authentic Sichuan dish is mostly reduced to mild to adapt to local taste buds. There are also Japanese and Korean variations of this popular dish. For my gluten free recipe, I am using lean minced beef, organic firm tofu cooked in a mildly hot and spicy sauce made with minced garlic, grated ginger, gluten free black bean sauce, gluten free light soy sauce, hot chilli sauce, hot chilli powder and Sichuan peppercorn powder. This recipe is also dairy free, egg free and nut free.



Nutritional Values and Health Benefits of Lean Minced Beef

Lean minced beef or ground beef is a good source of protein, it is also a good source of B group of vitamins: vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12.  In addition, it is a substantial source of essential minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and selenium. Health benefits of lean minced beef include: assists in production of healthy blood cells; supports healthy metabolism in the body; boost the immune function; helps maintain healthy skin; sustains healthy muscle and nerve functions and aids in promoting a good digestive system.


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10 Responses

  1. ST
    | Reply

    What brand would you recommend for a gluten free black bean sauce?

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      If you are in the USA or Canada, I would recommend One Culture Foods Chinese Fermented Black Bean Sauté & Marinade Sauce. Alternatively, you can also go to your local Asian groceries stores to see what is available.

      • Amber
        | Reply

        Thanks for this recommendation! One Culture Foods is pretty easy to find at the big western grocery chains when I can’t make it to an Asian market.

        I made this as written except I used mushrooms instead of pork to make it vegan. Delicious!! Thank you Daphne :)

        • Daphne Goh
          | Reply

          Hi Amber,

          Nowadays, many of the top the big western grocery chains have a good selection of gf Asian sauces and other gf products available, very convenient for those on a gf diet.

          Glad you enjoyed vegan version of my recipe! :)

          Cheers, Daphne

  2. Charlotte
    | Reply

    So glad to find this gf version of Mapo tofu. So tasty and full of flavor and easy to make. Thanks so much for this gf recipe.

    Rating: 5 / 5

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Thanks Charlotte! I am glad that you enjoyed this recipe. :)

  3. Shirley
    | Reply

    Hi! What is the black bean sauce? I’m excited to try your recipes!

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Black bean sauce is an Asian sauce with a unique fragrant black soy bean taste. Normally used in stir-fries or as marinades, can also be used in stews and steam fish dishes. :)

  4. Choclette
    | Reply

    How interesting to hear about the origins of the name. As a chilli fan, I really like the sound of this tofu dish.

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Thanks Choclette. I love food with chilli too. :)

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