High on our list of things to do in Chengdu was eat mapo tofu at the restaurant chain that started it all -- Chen Mapo Tofu. No one can say for sure if they truly were the original restaurant to create the dish, but everyone just assumes it by now. Any taxi driver in Chengdu will understand "Chen Mapo Doufu," even in a bad accent.
Although there was a Chen Mapo Tofu near our hotel, we chose to go to the Luomashi location because we were playing tourist in Chengdu's People's Park. I had to see the giant Mao Zedong statue, since a trip to mainland China is never complete until one sees an image or statue of him.
Washi representing J. Mascis, always and everywhere. Even in Communist China.
A short taxi ride under 10 minutes blasted us to the Chen Mapo Tofu store front. We were early for dinner since it was still around 5pm, but ready and hungry.
Everything was branded.
Rice in Chengdu often came like this -- packed to the brim.
The dishes here were all presented very well. My only complaint would be that each dish was a bit too huge. But maybe it was our fault for coming in as a party of two. This place was banquet style and the portions were too.
Braised Chinese cabbage in an umami sauce (most likely dried shrimp).
We got Washi's favorite, steamed chicken in chili oil. Again HUGE portions.
Fresh cucumbers with black bean sauce. We took our chances with fresh veggies that night. We didn't get sick!
And here is the mapo tofu. Drowning in a pool of delicious chili oil with black beans, chili-bean paste, soy sauce and dried chilies. It was also garnished with suanmiao, a leek native to this region.
There was surprisingly a very small amount of ground beef. It was purely for seasoning. The chef here does not skimp on the Sichuan pepper. This was mouth-numbing for sure and even the yogurt drink I ordered did not quell the fire. I wanted to shovel all of this into my mouth, but the heat prevented me.
This dish did not stop bubbling for 5 minutes after it was placed on our table. See the oil splatters on the starter plate? That is from the bubbling. On the spice meter, this was no joke, and I wish that I could go back for more, without the 13 hour plane ride.
Even though no one knows for sure if Chen Mapo is the original, it's undeniable that it has become an institution. The service is fast and clean, and everyone comes for the signature dish: Mapo Tofu.
Instead of ANOTHER Din Tai Fung in the USA can I suggest Chen Mapo Tofu to open its next branch in California?!
CHEN MAPO TOFU
197 Xi Yu Long Jie
LuoMaShi, Qingyang Qu, Chengdu Shi, Sichuan Sheng
Tel: (028) 86754512