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John’s mapo tofu (Illustration: Siew Wee H’ng)
John’s mapo tofu (Illustration: Siew Wee H’ng)

KaiFebruary 26, 2022

Recipe: Mapo tofu, by John from Takeout Kids

John’s mapo tofu (Illustration: Siew Wee H’ng)
John’s mapo tofu (Illustration: Siew Wee H’ng)

A favourite family recipe provided by 17-year-old John Kelvin Li of Christchurch’s Westminster Takeaways, star of episode two of Takeout Kids.

John features in the second episode of new Spinoff series Takeout Kids, which explores the lives of kids growing up in takeaway shops and family-run restaurants. John spends his spare time outside of school gaming and going to the gym, and in between everything else he helps his parents run their busy Ōtautahi fish and chip shop, Westminster Takeaways.


John Kelvin Li, age 17

Mapo tofu is our family’s comfort food and we eat it often. It’s traditionally not a dish people of my descent eat and it’s originally spicier, but we have adjusted the spice levels to our liking. It’s a special dish to me and there have been times where I’ve eaten so much of it with rice that it felt like my stomach was about to explode. 

  • oil 
  • 1 block firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 200g chicken or pork mince
  • 3 tablespoons chilli black bean paste (Lao Gan Ma brand), or use 1½ tablespoons chilli sauce (Lao Gan Ma brand) + 1½ tablespoons tablespoons doubanjiang (chilli bean paste)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil 
  • ground Sichuan peppercorns – add with caution and to your liking
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed well with 2 tablespoons water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup thinly sliced spring onions
  • steamed rice to serve

Put some oil in a pan over medium-high heat and cook each side of the tofu until lightly golden, then remove and set aside. 

In the same pan, cook the chicken or pork mince and once all cooked through, add the golden tofu, chilli black bean paste, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, spring onions and Sichuan peppercorns and mix everything together without breaking up the tofu. 

Once everything is mixed and fragrant, add a cup of water and once it bubbles up, add your cornstarch mixture and wait until the sauce thickens. 

Garnish the mapo tofu with some spring onions, serve with steamed rice and enjoy!

Click here to watch the full series of Takeout KidsTakeout Kids was made with the support of NZ On Air.

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