Vegetarian Mapo Tofu


I have started to love all the tofu dishes since I was a child.

It is around this time, when the Chinese New year is approaching. Like many other villagers, my mom brought 10 kilos of self-grown soy beans to the only family-owned tofu workshop in our village. In one to two days, two full buckets of white bulk tofu would be carried home. Either stir-fried or stewed with meat, all the tofu would be finished by my family, friends and relatives when the Spring Festival was over. It’s the best tofu. The excellent-quality soy beans absorbed well water’s refreshing fragrance, and is processed slowly by a big stone mill and firewood’s red flame. Every ingredient and each making step were all natural. I can still remember when I picked up one bulk of tofu from the bucket, it smelled of soy fragrance.

Since I left hometown, I have always smelled the tofu first to check its quality. I can tell that there is a big difference of the soybeans and production process both between China and US. For this dish, I prefer using Trader Joes’ organic tofu, which is closer to my hometown tofu. You can also use any other kind of firm tofu. I do not recommend using silken tofu to make this dish.

chili bean paste and fermented soy beans

In this dish, Chili bean paste (郫县豆瓣酱,pi xian dou ban jiang)  and fermented soy (black) beans (豆豉,dou chi) are the key sauces. They are the two most important ingredients for many typical Sichuan cuisine dishes. The former  is made from broad beans and can be called the soul of  Sichuan Cuisine; the latter one is made from black beans or soy beans. They are available in any of Chinese supermarkets in Philadelphia.


  • A box of Trader Joe’s organic tofu, 19 ounces
  • One piece of one-inch ginger, minced
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • one tablespoon of grape seed oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons of chili bean paste, finely chopped.
  • Half a teaspoon of fermented soy (black) beans, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon of Super Special Kimlan Soy Sauce
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • Half a teaspoon of ground Sichuan peppercorn
  • One teaspoon of cornstarch, mixed evenly into 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl
  • One teaspoon of sesame oil
  • Two spring onions, green part, chopped
  • Salt to taste


  1. Slice the tofu into one-inch cubes. Parboil tofu in boiling water for 2 minutes with a teaspoon of salt.
  2.  Scoop up the tofu cubes with a slotted ladle and drain.
  3.  Heat the grape seed oil in a wok.
  4.  Stir fry ginger and garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes
  5.  Stir fry chili bean paste and fermented black beans, until fragrant, about one minute.
  6.  Add Tofu to stir fry for three minutes.
  7. Add soy sauce and sugar to stir fry for one minute.
  8. Pour in water to cover the tofu to boil for 10 minutes.
  9.  Add cornstarch water to stir until you can see the soup is viscous, for one minute.
  10. Add sesame oil and salt to taste.
  11. Sprinkle with Sichuan peppercorn and garnish with spring onions
  12. Serve hot with rice.


  1.    If you want it more spicy, add one or two teaspoons of ground and dry red chili.
  2.    Just a little bit of salt is needed finally.

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