January 18, 2024

Mapo Tofu

Recipe: Jing Gao

“A bowl of silky, garlicky goodness served over warm steamed rice is my definition of comfort food. The secret, of course, is in the sauce.” – Jing Gao


Chili Oil (batch)

  • 2 cups neutral oil
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 1 piece cassia bark
  • 1 or 2 pieces cardamom
  • 1 or 2 scallions, white part only, chopped
  • 1 or 2 1″ pieces ginger, sliced
  • 1 cup Ground Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

Mapo Tofu

  • 14 oz. regular or soft tofu, cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1/4 lb. ground beef or pork
  • 1/4 cup Chili Oil (see recipe above)
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 2 tbsp doubanjiang
  • 2 tbsp Sichuan Chili Crisp
  • 3/4 cup bone broth or vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Roasted Sichuan Pepper
  • White rice, for serving


Yield: Serves 4

Make Chili Oil

  1. In wok or frying pan over high heat, warm oil with star anise, cassia bark, cardamom, scallions and ginger, until spices are bubbling and it reaches 285°F on instant-read thermometer.
  2. In heatproof bowl, combine Ground Chili Powder and sesame seeds. Once oil is at temperature, remove solids with slotted spoon. Slowly pour oil over Ground Chili Powder and stir. You should see and hear a sizzle and smell the fragrance from the chili powder.
  3. Once oil has cooled, transfer to airtight jar and store in cool, dark place for up to 3 months. You can use chili oil right away, but it will taste best after several days.

Make Tofu

  1. Gently place tofu in heatproof container. Pour lightly salted boiling water over until fully submerged and set aside. This step will give tofu better flavour and texture and prevent it from breaking as easily.
  2. In wok or other pan over high heat, warm oil, then add meat. Stir-fry until fully cooked, fragrant and slightly crisp on outside, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer meat to small bowl and set aside.
  3. In same wok over medium heat, warm Chili Oil, then add garlic and ginger. Fry for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Add doubanjiang and Sichuan Chili Crisp, and fry for another minute, being careful not to burn seasonings and aromatics. Add broth and bring mixture to a boil over high heat.
  4. Drain tofu and slide into wok. Using rubber spatula, stir, taking care not to break tofu. Return meat to wok. Let stock reduce for about 5 minutes.
  5. In small bowl, make cornstarch slurry by mixing cornstarch and water. Add slurry to wok a little at a time, gently stirring it in. Keep adding until sauce thickens to desired consistency.
  6. Transfer Mapo Tofu to serving bowl and sprinkle liberally with scallions and Ground Roasted Sichuan Pepper. Serve immediately with rice.

The Book of Sichuan Chili Crisp by Jing Gao. ©2023 Jing Gao. Photography by Yudi Ela Echevarria and Robert Nilsson. Published by Penguin, an imprint of Penguin Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved