Ma Po Tofu

Served with a bowl of rice on the side it’s the ultimate winter one-wok-wonder.
December 14, 2016


Dice the onion. Mince the garlic, Thai chiles, and cilantro. Cut the silken tofu into 3/4 in (2 cm) cubes.

Wash and drain the preserved black beans, place them in a sealable plastic bag with the Sichuan peppercorns, and bash them with a rolling pin until lightly crushed.

Place the meat in a bowl, add the marinade ingredients, and massage together with your hands. Mix the sauce ingredients together in a separate bowl.

Build Your Wok Clock: place your diced onion at 12 o’clock, then arrange the garlic, chile, crushed black beans and peppercorns, meat bowl, sauce bowl, tofu cubes, and cilantro clockwise around your plate.

Heat the Chiu Chow chili oil in a wok over medium-high heat until smoking-hot.

Add the onion to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute until the onions are lightly browned and starting to soften. Add the garlic, black bean and peppercorn mix, and chile to the pan, followed immediately by the marinated pork. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes until the ground pork is separated and browned, then pour over the sauce and bring to a vigorous boil.

Add the diced tofu to the wok, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring gently so as not to break up the tofu pieces too much. Continue to bubble away until the sauce has thickened and reduced by a third but the dish is still nice and brothy. Remove from the heat.

Serve in a large bowl and sprinkle over the finely chopped cilantro to garnish.

Swapsies: To make this dish completely vegetarian, swap out the ground pork for finely chopped soaked shiitake mushrooms.

Tip: If your sauce isn’t thickening up properly, mix together 1/2 Tbsp of cornstarch with 2 Tbsp of cold water and stir it into your sauce before folding in the tofu. Alternatively, if you happen to over boil your sauce, just add a little hot water to thin it out.

About this recipe

"The literal translation of this dish, “old pocked woman tofu,” may not sound particularly appetizing, but stick with it, as the result is a lovely, spicy, brothlike dish that highlights how good tofu is at absorbing flavor. Served with a bowl of rice on the side it’s the ultimate winter one-wok-wonder." -- Jeremy Pang, Essential Chinese Cooking.

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School of Wok's Stir-Fried Sichuan Chicken

Sichuan peppercorns (dried red berries, native to China) have a distinct fragrance when crushed and provide a unique numbing feeling all over the tongue: something the Chinese call ma la.


  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 fresh Thai chiles
  • A small handful of cilantro
  • 10 1/2 oz (300 g) firm silken tofu (fresh or packaged tofu are both fine to use)
  • 2 tsp preserved black beans
  • 1 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  • 14 oz (400 g) ground pork
  • 2 Tbsp Chiu Chow chili oil (the oil from the top of the pot only)
The Marinade
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • A pinch of granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
The Sauce
  • 2 tsp chili bean paste or hot chili paste
  • 2 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp rice wine
  • 1 2/ 3 cups (400 ml) chicken broth
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