Recipe courtesy of Sara Moulton

Ma-Po Tofu

This fiery Sichuan classic is named for the pockmarked (po) wife (ma) who supposedly invented it at her husband's restaurant.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 35 min
  • Prep: 15 min
  • Cook: 20 min
  • Yield: 3 to 4 servings
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1/4 cup chicken broth

2 tablespoons hot bean paste

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Kosher salt

1 pound regular or soft (not silken) tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons corn, peanut or canola oil

1/2 pound ground pork shoulder (preferably 75 percent lean)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced peeled ginger

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

1 1/2 teaspoons Japanese sesame oil

1/2 to 1 teaspoon toasted sansho powder

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

Accompaniment: steamed rice


  1. To make the sauce: Stir together broth, bean paste, soy sauce, and kosher salt. Set aside.
  2. To poach the tofu: Slide tofu into a saucepan of simmering water and keep at a bare simmer while stir-frying rest of dish.
  3. To stir-fry the pork: Heat a wok or large heavy skillet over high heat until hot and add 1 1/2 tablespoons corn oil, swirling to coat. Add pork and stir-fry, breaking up lumps and adding remaining 1/2 tablespoon corn oil if meat sticks, until no longer pink. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry over moderate heat until very fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. To finish the stir-fry: Stir reserved sauce, then add to pork and bring to a simmer. Drain tofu in a large sieve and slide into sauce, stirring gently.
  5. Stir cornstarch mixture and add to stir-fry. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook until thickened and glossy, about 15 seconds.
  6. Turn off heat and sprinkle with sesame oil, sansho powder, to taste, and 2 tablespoons scallion. Stir once or twice, then serve sprinkled with remaining tablespoon scallion.