Mapo Tofu (Sichuan-Braised Tofu with Pork--or Beef)

Mapo tofu is the most renowned dish from China's Sichuan province and is well loved as comfort food by fans of chili throughout the world. It's quick and easy to make once you have a few specialty ingredients in your pantry, and is delicious made with ground beef, ground pork, or a combination. Serve with steamed white rice. 

  • 1 pound soft tofu
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black bean sauce with chile
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons garlic, minced or smashed
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 1-1/2-inch knob fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil 
  • Toasted sesame oil
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped

Drain the tofu and cut it into 1-inch cubes.

Pour the chicken stock into a measuring cup with the Chinese black bean and soy sauces. Set aside.

Put the cornstarch in a small dish and stir in 3 tablespoons water to make a smooth slurry. 

Toast the Szechuan peppercorns for a minute or so in hot dry skillet until they are fragrant. Allow to cool, then grind to a powder and place in a small dish.

Set the little dishes next to your wok or pan, along with the peanut or grapeseed oil, the toasted sesame oil, and the pork.

Heat a wok or wide saute pan until it is very hot. Coat it with the peanut or grapeseed oil and add the garlic, white parts of the scallions, and ginger. Move the ingredients around the pan, working quickly, until they become fragrant. Add the pork and cook quickly, stirring and breaking up the meat until no pink remains. Add the greens, stir to combine and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes.

Add the chicken stock mixture and bring to a simmer before adding the tofu. Cook for a couple of minutes until the tofu begins to fall apart. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and allow the sauce to thicken. Add a splash of sesame oil and the scallion greens, toss it all together and sprinkle on the Szechuan peppercorns. Serve with white rice.