Updated: Jun 7, 2021
I think most of us can admit that we have been through varying stages of tofu scepticism in our life. Unless you have been very lucky - it probably started with a 'eughhh this rubbery stuff REPELS flavour'. I wouldn't blame you for not pushing past this initial instinct, but I implore you now - persevere.
The next stage of my journey consisted of heavily marinated, heavily fried tofu. A step in the right direction for our little soy bean friends - 'it tastes of something, hoorah!'
Next came porous, spongey tofu - the kind that soaks up the liquid surrounding it and squelches a flavour bomb of liquid free upon every chew. (for those of you who read my newsletter, yes I'm still going on about Chilli Daddy Hot Pot).
And now.. Mapo Tofu. What I once thought was the enemy of tofu; that silky slimy texture, becomes its best friend in this dish. Mapo Tofu embraces the slipperiness as the intensely flavourful sauce clings to and even permeates the smooth exterior of the tofu. Rich, spicy bean paste (tobanjan / doubanjiang / douban / toban-djan) and Sichuan pepper are combined to make the sauce that envelops the tofu in this Chengdu classic.
I couldn't help but think to myself as I was eating 'this must be it - I have reached peak tofu enlightenment.'
Hopefully, I have convinced you of this dish enough that I can now reveal that 'ma po tofu' translates to mean 'pock-marked old woman's tofu'. This enticing name originates from a restauranteur's smallpox inflicted wife who famously served up this dish regularly in its home town, Chengdu. Charming!
This recipe came from Fuschia Dunlop's 'The Food of Sichuan'.