By Request

Betty Shimabukuro

Chinese recipe comes
with language class

Popo and Mapo are both older Chinese women. Popo is an older woman grandma and Mapo is an older woman with an imperfect complexion. Perhaps she is also a grandma, but not necessarily.

It's amazing what you can learn when cruising the Internet in search of stray facts, in this case the origin of the Szechwan dish Mapo Tofu.

According to, the dish was created by "an old lady who resided in Szechwan a long time ago." Her face had been scarred by the measles, thus people called her "Mapo," (ma meaning pock-marked and po meaning elderly woman).

You also may be interested to know that Mapo Tofu was among dishes prepared by Iron Chef Chen Kenichi in 1999, when the final episodes of "Iron Chef" were filmed. You can read about this in great detail at

The secret ingredient of the match was Tokyo-X, a type of pork developed by crossing three breeds (Beijing black pig, Berkshire and Durock). Chen won the battle.

All of this is apropos of nothing, except that Thelma Lee has asked for the recipe for Mapo Tofu from Ciao Mein Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Resort & Spa.

Mapo Tofu is typically made with a little bit of pork and a lot of tofu, seasoned to heightened awareness with chile sauces -- usually a hot black bean sauce and/or a chile-garlic sauce. These are available at Asian groceries and sometimes in the Asian sections of mainstream supermarkets.

Chef Hing Lim Lee from Ciao Mein prefers Yeo's brand of hot bean sauce, which is sold at 99 Ranch Market. The sauce aisle at 99 is a fascinating place, by the way, full of variety and all kinds of brands. Bring your reading glasses to study the labels; it can be hard to pick out exactly what you're looking for.

Mapo Tofu

2 ounces ground pork hash
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 ounces (1/4 cup) chile-garlic sauce (Yeo's brand preferred)
2 ounces (1/4 cup) hot bean sauce (Yeo's brand preferred)
6 ounces (3/4 cup) chicken broth
Sugar to taste
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon mushroom-flavored dark soy sauce (Pearl River Bridge brand preferred)
Red chile peppers, to taste
1 block soft tofu, cut in cubes
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Chopped green onions, for garnish

Stir-fry pork in oil in a wok. Add chile-garlic and hot bean sauces, broth, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil.

Add soy sauce and chile peppers. Add tofu. Return to a boil. Cook until tofu is hot in the center. Add sesame oil. Fold in cornstarch mixture to thicken, as needed. Do not overmix the sauce.

Serve over rice and garnish with green onions. Serves 2.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (not including rice, or sugar or salt to taste : 450 calories, 28 g total fat, 5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, greater than 2,300 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, 27 g protein

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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Asterisk (*) after nutritional analyses in the
Body & Soul section indicates calculations by Joannie Dobbs of Exploring New Concepts,
a nutritional consulting firm.

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