Mapo Tofu is a staple of Chinese cuisine, a perfect exemplar of the rich, bold, and spicy flavors of Sichuan.
Unlike other dishes, we can actually pinpoint when and where Mapo Tofu was first created.
The Story of Mapo Tofu
In 1862, the owners of the Chen Xingsheng Eating House 陳興盛飯舖, a small mom-and-pop shop, started experimenting with their mouth-watering tofu and pork dish.
Little did the Chen family know, that they would soon make a name for themselves and quickly become one of Chengdu's most popular restaurants.
The "mapo" in Mapo Tofu refers to Mrs. Chen, an elderly woman with bumpy, cratered skin.
- màh 麻 - rough, bumpy, pockmarked
- pòh 婆 - elderly woman, grandma
Although an unfortunate nickname, Mrs. Chen became a local legend, known as Chen Mapo.
She and her family eventually embraced the name. Decades later, they officially rebranded their restaurant as Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant 陳麻婆豆腐.
In 2011, UNESCO declared Chengdu a "city of gastronomy", to be celebrated for its sophisticated culinary greatness.
Among the many incredible flavors and dishes you might find in Sichuan, Mapo Tofu stands among the best.
Mrs. Chen's legacy is undeniable, inspiring generations upon generations of chefs to build upon her recipe.
If you ever find yourself in Chengdu, the Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant is still open for business, over 150 years later.
In the meantime, you can make your own delicious mapo tofu for yourself at home!