Tapping the Mapo Doufu Source

Boris Mann 12th April 2021 at 12:06am

“A dish that contains multitudes, collapses peripheries and explains the rise and fall of empires.” from The Cleaver and the Butterfly

The energy I tasted in that first mouthful of mapo doufu in 1984 was directly connected to the innovation and collective collaboration of the Chengdu food scene in the 1860s and to the experiments of the Jinyu commune peasants in the 1970s. Those peasants who grew the ingredients, and the laborers who hauled that produce to the big city, and the cooks who orchestrated a collective collaboration into Sichuan’s signature dish? Their grandchildren had unlocked the economic strength of a budding superpower.

Which, it seems to me, is exactly the essence of mapo doufu. The world is not a simple place, declares mapo doufu. It is full of contradictions and contrasts and complexity. It can be overpowering, but properly constructed, it is also intoxicating. And if you understand mapo doufu, you can understand the world, because mapo doufu doesn’t just contain all tastes – it contains all stories.

So of course I would fall in love with it, at first detonated taste bud. There was never any other choice.

Link: https://andrewleonard.substack.com/p/tapping-the-mapo-doufu-source