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mapo chickpea tofu

mapo chickpea tofu

Mapo Tofu is one of my favorite meals. Originating from Sichuan province, it's numbingly spicy and satisfying. The literal translation is "pock-marked old woman beancurd" There a few stories of its origins, but all are based in Chengdu, and all include a pock-marked old woman as the creator of this popular dish. Variations of the dish include a small amount (4oz /125g) of minced meat or finely chopped Chinese mushrooms. It's so little, I think is works perfectly fine without this addition.

Chickpea tofu, also known as Burmese or Shan Tofu* is easy to make at home. There are only a few steps and short cooking time, but you need to time overnight to hydrate the flour, and then a few hours to let the tofu set. I haven't tried it yet, but you can also slice, dry and fry this tofu to make crackers.



2 cups chickpea  (besan) flour

6 cups (1.9L) water 

1 Tbsp neutral oil (sunflower seed, grapeseed)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric


One block of chickpea tofu or silken tofu (12-16oz / 350-450g), cubed

2 Tbsp neutral oil

2 Tbsp fermented broad bean chili paste (dou ban jiang 豆瓣酱)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2" (10mm) stem of fresh gingerroot, finely chopped

1-2 scallions or chives, finely chopped

1 cup of water, divided

1 Tbsp cornstarch or tapioca starch

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 - 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed



  • Soak the chickpea flour overnight in the 6 cups of water.

  • Without disturbing the flour that has settled to the bottom, skim 2.5 - 3 cups (1 L ) of the water out.

  • Heat a pot on medium high heat and coat with oil. Stir the chickpea flour mixture to loosen it up and pour into the pot. Stir in the salt and turmeric.

  • Cook on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring vigourously and continuously until the mixture has thickened. 

  • Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled, or lined deep baking dish or loaf pan (I used a 6" x 6"/ 15.5mm x 15.5mm stainless steel container.) Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the dish. Let this cool and set for 3 hours or overnight.  

*Derived from this recipe


  • Bring a pot of water to boil with a pinch of salt and let the tofu simmer here for 2-3 minutes.  

  • Pour 1/4 cup (60ml) of water into a small bowl. Add the cornstarch and stir to combine. Set aside. 

  • Heat a frying pan or wok with the oil. (If using meat or mushrooms, cook them now.) Add the broad bean paste, garlic and ginger, toasting these aromatics for 1-2 minutes. 

  • Add the remaining 3/4 cup (180ml) of water and bring to a boil. Gently add the tofu, tossing to coat. Give the cornstarch water slurry a stir and add this to the pan. Simmer for a minute or two while the sauce thickens. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and ground Sichuan peppercorns.

NOTE: A dry Mapo Tofu (don't use 3/4 cups of the water) makes a delicious Dumpling filling!

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