Serves a Crowd

The Legendary Ma Po Tofu

April 23, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 8
Author Notes

This is my husband’s favorite dish that his mom makes. My mother-in-law says that legend has it this recipe came from a pox-faced old lady who became famous for making this great spicy tofu dish in Szechuan. It is said to stimulate the appetite. It sure stimulates ours! —monkeymom

What You'll Need
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon wine (for marinating meat)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (for marinating meat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar (for marinating meat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper (for marinating meat)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (for marinating meat)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (for marinating meat)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 boxes of tofu (regular or silken)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 green onions (chopped – separate white and green parts)
  • 6 tablespoons soy sauce (for sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch (for sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (for sauce - Chinese black bean chili sauce in a jar is preferred, regular chili sauce is okay. This can be omitted or can be increased)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  1. Marinate pork with wine, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch.
  2. Heat oil in large frying pan. Sauté garlic and white part of green onion in oil for less than 1 minute.
  3. Stir fry the marinated ground pork for 5-6 minutes. You may cover 1-2 times to steam the pork. Do not add any water. Open the cover to stir-fry the pork continuously until done.
  4. Add diced tofu, stir gently, and cover for 3 minutes with medium temperature to simply “warm up” the tofu. Open the cover, mix and stir gently, tofu will be little mashed, which is okay.
  5. Mix soy sauce, cornstarch, hot sauce and pour over the tofu/meat in the pot. Stir gently and quickly with high heat until the sauce is thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning – add more soy, salt, pepper, or hot sauce as needed.
  6. Remove to a large bowl. Sprinkle with ½ ts sesame oil, ½ tsp black pepper and the green part of the chopped onion.
  7. Serve hot with white rice. Enjoy!
  8. Note: The picture shown is made with silken tofu. It can fall apart pretty easily. You can easily substitute regular or firm tofu too.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Ontariobnd
  • healthierkitchen
  • mrslarkin
  • testkitchenette
  • monkeymom

Recipe by: monkeymom

My favorite distraction is to cook. Though science and cooking/baking have a lot in common, I'm finding that each allows me to enjoy very different parts of my life. Cooking connects me with my heritage, my family, friends, and community. I'm really enjoying learning from the food52 community, who expose me to different ingredients and new ways to cook.

22 Reviews

Sarah P. November 5, 2022
this might be a lovely dish but it is not ma po tofu. There needs to be toban djan
Sarah P. November 5, 2022
and szechuan pepper corn among other things. Go to Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe in one of her books for ma po tofu. One of the best dishes in the world.
Lucy A. July 1, 2020
It is an easy & very nutritious tofu dish!
Thanks for “ spice “ up our lengthy “ stay-home“ meals.
Ontariobnd January 27, 2019
This was painfully easy to whip together for a quick meal. I backed off a bit on the soy sauce sauce and added just 3 tbs. instead of 6. Also I did a 1:1 pork to tofu ration, and added an extra squeeze of sriracha just before serving. Very tasty, very simple, saved to favourites.
emcsull September 13, 2015
Hello monkey mom, have made this twice and my guys lap it up. funny though, your picture looks so saucy and soupy and mine was real dry. It was very good though ! What are your thoughts ?
Deb R. August 25, 2014
emcsull-for my family I use a 1:1 ration of pork to tofu as that's how we prefer it. I use black pepper for this recipe I'm not sure about szechuan peppercorns but I think grinding would be best for any pepper in this recipe. It's so good enjoy!
emcsull August 25, 2014
two questions:
1) how big are the tofu packages, a pound each ? so 2:1 Tofu:pork ?
2) szechuan peppercorns - I have some whole, do I grind them ?

Thanks !
Deb R. September 6, 2012
We loved it! Had the leftovers tonight-thanks for sharing
Deb R. September 4, 2012
The pork is marinating. Excited to try this for dinner!
Pizzapie May 20, 2012
I'm sorry but this was a no hitter. Too salty and greasy...
healthierkitchen April 23, 2012
monkeymom - I still make this regularly and love it! I tried it last night with ground chicken (thigh) just to experiment for future for a friend who does not eat pork and it was also excellent that way. I ended up using a tofu I found at a local coop that I have not seen before - "firm silken" - best of both worlds! Thanks again to you and your mother in law!
monkeymom April 24, 2012
I'm so glad you like this! We make it often...I've used ground turkey (dark meat is better) as well. I'm glad to hear that chicken works too! I'll let my mom in law know too, she will be really glad to hear that others are enjoying it.
Westminstress March 9, 2012
Just tried this last night. Thanks - it was easy and delicious, great weeknight dish! I do have a question though. Between the soy sauce (I used Pearl River Bridge Premium Light) and the chili bean sauce I used, it was pretty salty! I also would have liked it spicier (just my personal taste) but since I have a toddler and did not want to add more salt to the dish, we stuck to the 1 TB of chili bean sauce. I was curious what brands you usually use. Do you have any tips for reducing the salt while keeping all the flavor?
monkeymom March 10, 2012
Hello Westminstress. I'm glad you tried this and liked it. We use kikkoman light and Yank Sing brand chili bean sauce. I suspect the chili bean sauce you used is making it salty. You could reduce the amount and add fresh chili peppers to get more heat. The traditional version also uses szechuan peppercorns, which have more of a numbing quality. Lee Kee Kum is another brand of hot sauce that is not bad. They have different varieties you could try as well. Be sure to check back in if you find one you like!
healthierkitchen May 17, 2011
I've had this saved since you posted it and finally tried it tonight. Just delicious!! Even my tofu-challenged husband liked it. Best part is how easy this is for a weeknight. I added in some broccoli and we had a one dish dinner. We will definitely be making this often.
monkeymom May 18, 2011
My mother-in-law will be so happy to hear that you liked it! Thanks for letting us know!
bigmouthtofeed May 20, 2010
Made this tonight and my family devoured it. I never would have thought to marinate ground pork, but it really does help the texture of the meat a lot. I kept it mild, for the kids, but I'm sure it will gradually get hotter as they get older.
monkeymom May 20, 2010
I'm so happy you tried it! One of my kids loves tofu, the other pork. It's been working well for us too.
mrslarkin April 23, 2010
another one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Thanks!
monkeymom April 24, 2010
Thanks mrsL!
testkitchenette April 23, 2010
I love all the flavors in this dish!
monkeymom April 24, 2010
Thanks! You can really spice it up if you want to. You can also use szechuan peppercorns for more authenticity as well.