This Mapo Doufu Is Proof That It's Way Easier to Make Chinese Food Than You Think
This Sichuanese classic is hearty, umami, and fiery as hell—and cooking it takes less time than ordering Chinese takeout.
Photo by Farideh Sadeghin
Here in the US of A, tofu is largely an ingredient for vegetarians—or for meat eaters who are sharing a meal with vegetarians and don't mind swapping the beef for tofu in their chow mein.
But in China, people understand that tofu doesn't need to cover for cow, or any other animal; tofu can carry a dish just as well as meat, and with proper execution can play perfectly nice with animals of all sorts.
Mapo Doufu is one of those dishes. This Sichuanese classic is a carnival of bean curd, ground beef, fermented black beans, and lots of chilies. This recipe is straight from All Under Heaven, the comprehensive cookbook by Chinese food expert Carolyn Phillips, so you know it's legit, and after making it, you'll understand that cooking quality Chinese food is way easier than you think.
It's hearty, umami, and fiery as hell. And yes, it'll reinforce the idea that tofu and beef can indeed be a match made All Under Heaven.