I’ve made some changes to this recipe since I first published it in 2019 because my tastes change! Over the past few years, I’ve prepared this mapo tofu with more varieties of doubanjiang with varying levels of saltiness. One batch was so salty that I decided to dial back on the doubanjiang specified in this recipe. I also removed the black bean and garlic sauce, though you can add a teaspoon or two of it, if you like. Black bean and garlic sauce is a bit salty as well, so you may want to reduce the doubanjiang.I’ve also added diced shiitake mushrooms to give the dish more substance. If you are not a fan of mushrooms, leave them out or use 2/3 cup of finely diced bell peppers or even jicama if you want some crunch. Finally, we all have different tolerance levels for spice. The recipe here should yield a dish that has a medium level of spice. Feel free to reduce or add spice to this dish by adjusting the amount of Sichuan peppercorns or ginger; you can also use chili flakes that are spicier than gochugaru. See note 3 for more guidance about chili flakes.
1 1/2tablespoons(10g) gochugaru, (see note see note 3 for substitutions)
1stalk of scallions, sliced, lighter pieces and dark green pieces separated
drizzle ofsesame oil
Prepare the Tofu
Drain the block of tofu and remove it from the package. Cut the tofu into 3/4-inch cubes.
Add 8 cups of water and 2 teaspoons salt to a saucepan and bring it to boil. Remove the saucepan from heat.
Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, carefully lower the tofu cubes into the hot water. Let the tofu sit in hot water as you prepare the sauce.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl and turn off the heat.
Prepare the Sauce
Grind the Sichuan peppercorns with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Sift the ground peppercorns through a fine mesh to sift out the tough husks. Discard the tough husks (see note 4).
Add ½ cup of water and 1 teaspoon cornstarch to a small bowl and stir to combine. Set it aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Then, add the doubanjiang and sauté for another 30 seconds. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorn, gochugaru (or other chili flakes), and sugar and stir together. Finally, give the cornstarch slurry a stir again and add to the wok (see note 5). Add the white and light green parts of the scallion. Let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes.
Mix Sauce with Mushrooms & Tofu
Add the sautéed mushrooms to the wok. Using a skimmer or a slotted spoon, transfer the warmed tofu to the wok as well. Then, carefully toss everything together. The tofu is very delicate and can break apart easily, so be careful.
Transfer the mapo tofu to a serving bowl.
Drizzle a tiny bit of sesame oil over the tofu. Garnish the tofu with the dark green parts of the scallion. Serve with jasmine riceor brown rice.
Some soft or silken tofu comes in 14-ounce packages, which also works for this recipe.
You can find doubanjiang in Asian grocery stores, especially ones that sell Chinese ingredients. If you don’t have easy access to an Asian grocer, you can find it on Amazon or Asian online stores like Yamibuy or Weee! You can use any leftover doubanjiang in these recipes: Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry, Spicy Peanut Noodles.
I prefer using gochugaru because it gives the sauce a nice red color and a subtle smoky flavor. You can use Chinese-style chili flakes or even red pepper flakes that you can find in grocery stores. Note that different chili flakes vary in their level of spice! If you’re using a very mildly spiced chili flake, use 1 tablespoon and add more if desired. Chili flakes from the supermarket that are sold with the seeds tend to be spicier. If you’re using that type of chili flake or any spicy chili flake, start with 3/4 teaspoon of the flakes and add more if you want more spice.
In a previous iteration of the recipe, I didn’t sift out the husks of the peppercorns. A few of my friends told me they didn’t like the tough texture of the husks. That’s why I’ve added the step of sifting the ground peppercorns. When you sift out the husks, you lose about half of the volume of the peppercorns. That’s why in this new version of the recipe, I’m using slightly more Sichuan peppercorns to start.
Cornstarch settles at the bottom very easily. That’s why you should stir the cornstarch before adding to the wok.