Lowfat Ma Po Tofu, Spring, and a Chinese Dosa?

I just had to show you this — a Chinese dosa??

It’s spring at last!!

Finally, the days are longer and the thermometer is ever so slowly creeping upward. All the extra sunshine is soaking into my bones to wake me from a long winter nap. Of course waking up from winter naps means taking out spring clothes, and as usual, too much winter makes too much me!

To that end, I picked up a package of Nasoya Light silken tofu, and thought about that melt-in-your-mouth Chinese dish, ma po tofu. I wanted to try it without the oil called for in most recipes. And while it can be made without pork and without too much oil, it can’t be made without Sichuan hot bean sauce (or paste), and for that I ventured out to my favorite Asian market. I’m usually in there buying Indian groceries — today it was a little trip to China.

chinese groceries, clockwise from top left ~ sichuan peppercorn (tepal), light and dark soy sauces, dried fungus, canned water chestnuts, canned sichuan hot bean paste, sesame oil (Japanese brand)

Next time I will invest in a jar of the hot bean paste rather than the can. I think the jars have more chili heat. Made with fermented soy or broad beans, this paste is *very* salty; between that and the dash of saltier-than-regular light soy sauce, the salt shaker is not necessary. Taste the bean paste before beginning to determine how much chili powder is needed. The dish should be quite spicy.



wood ears ~ before, top, and after soaking, right

This comes together so quickly it could easily be a weeknight meal. It’s mostly based on the recipe in my favorite Chinese cookbook: The Taste of China by Ken Hom.

Ma Po Tofu

1 tsp canola oil
2 TB each garlic and ginger, minced
1 1/2 TB sichuan hot bean paste
1 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp Chinese light soy sauce
2-3 dried black fungus (wood ear, tree ear), soaked, drained, and thinly sliced

1 block silken tofu, drained well and cut in cubes
(mine was Nasoya light, 16 oz)

2 TB cornstarch mixed with 2 TB water

1/4 c green onions, sliced
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 tsp sichuan peppercorns, toasted and powdered


In a wok or large non-stick frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, saute a minute until fragrant, then add bean paste and chile powder.
Stir-fry 2 minutes, then add about 1/2 c water to prevent burning. Add wood ears and stir well.

Cover and simmer on med-low about 5 minutes, then gently add the tofu.
Use a wooden spoon to gently stir the mixture, then cover and simmer over low heat about 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, uncover and raise the heat to med-high.
When the mixture bubbles, add the cornstarch-water mixture and stir thoroughly.
Fold in the green onions, drizzle with the sesame oil, and give the mixture a final turn.

Remove from the heat to a serving bowl, and garnish with the ground sichuan pepper.

Serve hot over steamed rice. I had mine with plain steamed cauliflower as a substitute.

Tips: soak dried fungus/wood ears in hot water for about 15-20 minutes to reconstitute. Cut out the tough edge, then roll up and slice like a cookie-dough roll. If you’ve never cooked with these before, don’t be put off by the name. It has no real taste of its own, but provides a nice crunchy texture.

You can toast the sichuan peppercorns in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Then grind as you would any dry roasted spice. Don’t try to crush in a mortar and pestle as I did — you’ll be picking little sichuan peppercorn coverings out of your teeth!

spicy low-fat ma po tofu over cauliflower

another yummy version:

Pel’s Ma Po Doufu (vegan)


All I can think about is getting back into the garden. I have ordered tomato plants already(!!) to arrive mid-late May. I’ve rounded up all the seeds leftover from last year — many from dear ISG — plus the things I saved over the winter.
I have picked up two types of cucumber and three varieties of long beans to try, okra, and calaloo, not to mention seeds for mint, dill, oregano, and of course catnip! Pinkie loves catnip — perhaps Daisy will take to the fresh variety.

pinks and daisy being lego-kitties

daisy in early spring sunshine

What will you plant in your garden this spring?


  1. varsha said

    Lovely dishes n cute cats..:)

    Thanks, Varsha πŸ™‚

  2. pelicano said

    What am I gonna plant this year? Marijuana. πŸ˜€
    No… not really! πŸ˜‰ I’ve grown tomatoes and gourd-family things for 4 years now…and the soil is becoming depleted a bit as they are such heavy feeders… therefore: beans. Unless a few things sprout up on their own (from composting); if they behave they can stay.

    Ma po doufu aur phool-gobhi eh? And here am I devouring a bowl of khichri… I feel so guilty, but I think you did swell at churning out a low-fat version of this Szechuan classic, and best of wishes for you in the coming year- beginning at the equinox. πŸ™‚

    P.S. Love Daisy’s unusual coat- never noticed her patches of red before!

    Ha, thanks Pel! Now imagine what sort of searches will land here πŸ˜‰ Khichri would be nothing to feel guilty about!

    I’ve been doing alot in containers since the soil here is so hard to work — even your biggest tomato plant will grow in a recycle bin.

    Glad you enjoyed Daisy — wishing you a happy year ahead, too πŸ™‚

  3. Happy Cook said

    Wow i love those kitties, i just made few days back a dish with sichuan peper i love the special flavour from the pepers but my daughter hated it, she was trying to pick them out from her plate, with lot of difficulties.
    I love that balck fungi dishes, i have onlymade this black funfus together with non-veg .

    Hi HC — I had a hard time with the inner seed coating too — next time I’m going to use the grinder. Glad you liked the kitties πŸ™‚

  4. Asha said

    Yes, it’s Spring! Hurrya! ;D

    Love the kitty photos, me allergic to cat hair, so no cats for us. Trisha and I are going to driver’s license for renewing our license today, will not surf at all but rest after that. Very tired after a full weekend of activities and it rained non-stop both days too! But went well, will post photos later.

    Every country seems to have some kind of dosas in their pockets! πŸ˜€

    Tofu looks good, Trisha loves it. Have a great St. Patricks’ day.

    Renewing drivers’ license — must be somebody’s birthday besides T!! Glad to hear the festivities went well — will be looking for the pics πŸ™‚

  5. indosungod said

    Linda, that ma po tofu looks oh so good. Would taste wonderful for my tongue which has lost taste in the last few days with a bad cold. Kollu rasam seems the only thing that has worked and I am on the mend. I seem to have this like/dislike thing going for Tofu. I am not cooking it right is perhaps the only answer.

    I was all set to plant some seeds with the gloomy weather this weekend and the cold no progress has been made.

    I love that chinese crepe, wonder what went into the batter. And what a nifty tool.

    Hi ISG — I loved the spinning oven! With tofu, it *is* sort of an acquired taste — but soaks up flavors so well. Try it with something strong-flavored first, maybe. Still way too cold to think of planting but I did get some peat pots to begin things inside πŸ™‚

    Hope you’re feeling much better now!!

  6. bee said

    jai’s scattering seeds and more seeds from packets he bought. i’ve no idea. i do know he got some from seeds of india and he’s put in some mesclun mix.

    Mesclun and baby spinach seeds are just waiting for warm weather — another week or two if the current trend holds! I’ve some others to start in peat pots… is it April yet? πŸ™‚

  7. mandira said

    Linda, your cats are enjoying the sun. πŸ™‚ The tofu looks great… are you in MI already? Please drop me a e-mail and we will make plans. For spring I am planning tomatoes, chillies, eggplants, herbs, carrots etc…

    Where will you plant your carrots, Mandira? I have some seeds but the soil here is too rocky and dense. I was thinking of trying a rectangular container.

    I can only wish I were in Michigan already — will surely let you know when I am πŸ™‚

  8. Shankari said

    The video of crepe is simply amazing!

    Great to see you Shankari! Wasn’t that great! πŸ™‚

  9. Vani said

    Chinese “dosa” sure looked very much like ours. The way they fold it was just how they do in restaurants! Very interesting!
    Tofu looks great! Loved the sun bathing kitties! They both are beautiful!

    I haven’t had a big dosa like that in a restaurant, Vani, but have seen pics that show them! It would need a lot of chutney! πŸ˜‰ Glad you liked the kitties πŸ™‚

  10. sunila said

    Hi Linda,
    Tks for ur comment on my blog.Though i havent been writing much,I read ur blog every now and then and like it .Where I live there are the central mkts which have a couple of food courts abounding in asian food stalls(dunno how authentic :0) .One has a crepe like the one u have written abt,they fill it up with fruits of ur choice,cream and ice cream and fold it over and its yummm.sort of a sweet masala dosa :0). c ya.

    Oh my goodness, a sweet cream filled dosa would be SO delicious! πŸ™‚ Thanks for the nice comment, Sunila πŸ™‚

  11. Cynthia said

    I’ve just spent the last 20 mins watching at one video after the other πŸ™‚ thanks for this. To have such skills.

    That YouTube is a bit addictive, isn’t it Cyn! πŸ™‚ My daughter thinks the same thing, but she watches obscure music vids πŸ˜‰ Glad you enjoyed!

  12. meeso said

    Wow, that video was fun to watch… I would love to have tried one of those, they looked so crispy! Love the cat pics πŸ™‚

    Wouldn’t it be great to having that spinning wheel in our kitchens, Meeso! πŸ™‚ Glad you enjoyed kitties, too πŸ™‚

  13. sri said

    hi linda, where can i find tofu in the US?

    Hi Sri,

    You can find tofu in most any major grocery store — usually in the produce section. If you have an Asian (Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, etc) market, they will almost certainly stock it as well — sometimes even the very fresh homemade variety! My favorite Asian marked has mostly Indian groceries but they also stock these fresh ingredients for other Asian cuisines.

    Good luck and hope you enjoy some tofu soon! πŸ™‚

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