A Healthier Twist on One of My Favorite Chinese Dishes: Mapo Tofu Tacos
While in college, mapo tofu was one of the first dishes I learned to make. . . well, kind of. You have to remember, I was in college and needed to eat quickly so I could go back to playing or studying or whatever I was doing so I was hardly ever in the kitchen cooking. Ever. I lived off of this. The instant “Chinese Mabo Tofu Sauce.” All you had to do was add some ground beef and the tofu and serve over rice. Probably the farthest thing from the real thing. In fact, I believe the Mapo Tofu we’re all used to here in the states is a toned down version of what it really is supposed to taste like. It’s supposed to be numbingly spicy. Here’s more history on Mapo Tofu; pretty interesting stuff.
Anyway, with Chinese New Year coming up on Sunday, February 10, I wanted to celebrate by bringing you a healthy twist of one of my favorite Chinese food dishes. I am pretty happy with these tacos I must say. I set up my dredging station (flour, egg, panko) so I could bake my tofu so I had some crispiness, spiciness and freshness (from the carrots and cabbage) all in one bite. These are pretty amazing. I will be whipping these up again really soon for an upcoming Meatless Monday.
I hope you give these a try!
A few notes regarding the ingredients needed for this recipe. I used the following:
- Premium Soybean paste. I know this is Korean but it’s what I had at home and this worked great. This can be found at any Korean grocery store and most Asian markets.
- San-J’s Szechuan Sauce. If you can’t find this, try any kind of Szechuan Sauce at your local Asian market or in the Asian foods aisle/section at your grocery store.
- If you want to add more heat, you can add some Asian chili powder, Asian chili oil/sauce or freshly ground Szechuan pepper. If adding any of these ingredients, add a tablespoon at a time until the sauce reaches your desired level of spiciness. You will probably only need one tablespoon. I feel like a Chinese food Mapo Tofu fraud because the recipe card below does not include this because I did not want to make mine numbingly spicy.
- 1-2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs; slightly beaten
- about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 - 19 oz container of firm tofu; cubed (not small cubes but slightly larger ones; should make about 30 tofu cubes)
- 1 tablespoon soy bean paste
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1-2 tablespoons szechuan sauce (start with 1 tablespoon)
- 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
- 2 gloves garlic (minced)
- ½ cup water
- Salt to taste; if needed
- corn or flour tortillas (I actually preferred the flour tortillas for this even though they are photographed with the corn tortillas)
- shredded carrots
- shredded cabbage
- scallions; diced for garnish
- sriracha sauce
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and prepare a lined baking sheet with foil, a non-stick baking sheet or parchment paper.
- Set-up the dredging area: Place the flour in a medium bowl and place the eggs in another bowl and whisk with a fork for about 20 seconds. Place the panko in a third bowl.
- After you have cut your tofu, pat dry each one in paper towels to drain the excess water/liquid. Dip each tofu cube into the flour, then in the eggs and then lastly into the panko. You want each cube lightly breaded with panko. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip each tofu cube and bake for another 10 minutes.
- While your tofu is in the oven, prepare the sauce. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over high heat. Add all of the sauce ingredients (start with 1 tablespoon of the szechuan sauce) and mix well for a couple minutes. Taste and add more szechuan sauce or water or salt if needed and bring to a slight boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and let simmer for an additional 4 - 5 minutes. Gently stir and blend well.
- When the sauce and tofu is ready, prepare your tacos. Heat the tortillas slightly in a toaster oven and assemble: place your warm tortilla on a plate, place 3-4 tofu cubes on top, pour the mapo sauce over the crispy tofu cubes, add the shredded carrots, then the cabbage (you can drizzle some more mapo sauce over the cabbage if desired) and garnish with the diced scallions and drizzle on some sriracha sauce if needed. Serve immediately.
Mapo sauce adapted from Rasa Malaysia.
I baked my tofu cubes on this great non-stick cooking sheet, made by Cookina. If you are stick of using foil or parchment paper and are shopping for an affordable re-useable non-stick cooking sheet, check these out.
Lastly, here’s a close up shot of my baked tofu cubes. Loved these. Crispy on the outside and soft tofu on the inside.
Disclosure – Cookina provided my family with the non-stick cooking sheet featured, all opinions expressed here are my own.