Serious Eats: Recipes

Dinner Tonight: Mapo Tofu

[Photographs: Nick Kndelsperger]

Mapo Tofu kind of perfectly sums up what I love about Sichuan cuisine. It's feisty and slightly out of control, and yet it still feels homey and relaxed. Sure, the chili bean paste adds a wallop of heat, and the Sichuan peppercorns numb the inside of your mouth, but it's not overly greasy or heavy. It's meaty, but as much of the umami punch comes form the fermented black beans as the ground pork.

This recipe comes from Fuchsia Dunlop's Land of Plenty, and she really hit the necessary balance here. Much of that help has to go to the tofu, which are the shock absorbers for this dish. They remain white and silky at the end, and help cool the fire of the sauce.

The whole dish comes out surprisingly quickly, and without the usual theatrics of stir-frying. The heat is high only for the first step, then it's turned down to medium. If you're looking for a good look into this style of cooking, this might be a great first step.

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