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China Daily Website

Mapo tofu - Chen Mapo's tofu

Updated: 2012-03-09 16:28
( chinadaily.com.cn)

Mapo tofu - Chen Mapo's tofu
[Photo/Agencies]

There are two version of the dish's name:

Story 1:

Mapo tofu (stir-fried tofu in hot sauce) was created by the wife of a small restaurant owner named Chen Senfu in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Mrs. Chen lived in the Wan Fu Bridge area in the northern part of Chengdu (now the capital of Sichuan province) and had many pocks on her face, so she was called Chen Mapo (woman with pocks on the face; Ma refers to the pocks and Po means old woman). Because of this, the grilled tofu she made was named Chen Mapo tofu and her small restaurant was called Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant.

In 1909, Chengdu included this restaurant and Chen Mapo tofu in the Chengdu Famous Food Stores. The story of Chen Mapo tofu can be found in many ancient books including Poems of Bamboo in Jin City and Reminiscence of Hibiscus. Feng Jiaji, a poet from the late period of Qing Dynasty, had written a poem to praise the dish, saying the flavor of the tofu was even better than good wine. Mapo tofu has spread its fame throughout China, and is also famous in foreign countries like Japan and Singapore.

Story 2:

Chen Mapo tofu (people used to call it Mapo Tofu) was created in 1862 in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It was made in Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant near Wan Fu Bridge in the northern part of Chengdu (now the capital of Sichuan province).

After the restaurant owner Chen Chunfu died, his wife managed the restaurant. As there were many pocks on her face, she was called Chen Mapo (woman with pocks on the face). At that time, the Wan Fu Bridge was not long but very wide. Laborers always had a rest there. Porters carrying oil for merchants often stayed at Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant. They would buy some tofu and beef at the restaurant and fetch a little oil from what they were carrying. Then they would ask Chen Mapo to cook for them. In this way, they could save some money.

Gradually, Chen Mapo developed a unique way of cooking tofu. The tofu she made looked good, smelled good and tasted good, so Chen Mapo became famous. Writers and poets often gathered at the restaurant. Some people made fun of the pocks on Chen's face and called the tofu Chen Mapo tofu.

This story spread widely and became a legend. Therefore, the restaurant Chen Xing Sheng Restaurant was also called Chen Mapo Tofu Restaurant. According to Chengdu Records, Chen Mapo tofu was regarded as one of the most famous Chengdu foods at the end of the Qing Dynasty. Because of the continuous efforts of the descendants of Chen, Chen Mapo Sichuan Restaurant has enjoyed the fame for more than 140 years. It makes its name known both at home and abroad and wins praise from Chinese and foreign gourmands.

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