Literally meaning “pock-marked old lady tofu” this dish has to have one of the least complimentary names in all of the Chinese cuisine. Using Chengdu’s famous Pixian chilli bean paste, this has become a classic of Sichuan cookery. It’s very easy to make, too. Destination Flavour China 






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (24 votes)


  • 600 g firm (not hard) tofu
  • 4 tbsp canola or peanut oil
  • 250 g beef mince
  • ¼ cup doubanjiang (Sichuan chilli bean sauce, see Note)
  • 2 tbsp salted black beans
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger
  • 6 thick spring onions, cut into 5 cm lengths
  • Salt and sugar, to season
  • 1 tsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, to serve

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Serves 4 as part of a shared meal.

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to just below a simmer and season lightly with salt. Cut the tofu into 2.5 cm cubes and add to the water. Cook very gently for about 10-15 minutes, then drain.

2. Meanwhile, heat a wok over high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of the oil. Fry the beef mince until well browned, then remove from the wok and set aside.

3. Add the remaining oil to the wok and fry the chilli bean sauce until the oil turns red. Add the black beans, chilli powder, garlic and ginger and fry for about 1 minute or until fragrant.

4. Add the drained tofu to the wok, along with 1-2 cups of water. Stir gently and bring to a simmer. Add the fried beef and spring onion and simmer for 5 minutes or until the spring onion is softened.

5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar as required, then thicken the mixture with the cornflour slurry, adding a little at a time so that the sauce is thickened and silky, but not gloopy.

6. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve scattered with ground Sichuan pepper.



•Doubanjiang is available at select Chinese grocers. It can be hard to find among the myriad of fermented bean pastes. If you can, ask for Pixian doubanjiang. 

Photography by Adam Liaw.

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