Chengdu: A visit to the World’s First Mabo Tofu Restaurant - Chen Ma Po Dou Fu (陈麻婆豆腐老店) - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chengdu: A visit to the World’s First Mabo Tofu Restaurant - Chen Ma Po Dou Fu (陈麻婆豆腐老店)

Above: The entrance to Chen Ma Po Dou Fu 
The spicy dish Mabo Tofu (or Ma Po Dou Fu) is an all-time favorite you can enjoy in many restaurants across Asia, including Japan where I'm based. But did you know that if you find yourself in the Chinese city of Chengdu (成都) in the province Sichuan (四川) you can visit the restaurant where this dish originally originated from?

With the literary meaning "pockmarked granny's tofu" this dish emerged some time in the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (around 1874) when the wife of the owner of this restaurant (then known as Chen Xingsheng Eating House - 陳興盛飯舖) used whatever she had on hand to serve cheap meals to local workers. Her distinguished appearance with pockmarks on her face such led to the name of this dish, and later on the name of the restaurant also was changed to include the name of her now famous dish (now 陈麻婆豆腐老店).

Although the number of Chen Ma Po Dou Fu restaurants have increased (you can even find one of a chain restaurant in Tokyo), the original pockmarked granny's restaurant is still up and running in Chengdu .
Above: The entrance to Chin Mapo Tofu 
Above: The interior of Chen Ma Po Dou Fu 
During our recent trip to Tibet we had a short layover in Chengdu, and what better opportunity to check out the world's first Mapo Tofu restaurant! The one and only original Chen Ma Po Dou Fu restaurant was conveniently located in the northern suburbs of Chengdu, just a 15-min walk from our hotel, BuddhaZen Hotel.
Above: The interior of to Chen Ma Po Dou Fu 
We had heard that the place often gets very crowded around dinner time, so we arrived for an early dinner around 5. Might have been a good choice of day (it was on a Thursday), because it wasn’t that many guests in the restaurant when we arrived.
Above: Chen Ma Po Dou Fu's menu
We had also done some light research and read some reviews in advance, and were prepared for limited service. Fortunately, we didn’t have any problems getting our orders done, and the dishes didn’t take too long to get on the table either. Definitely an advantage of visiting outside of rush hours! 
Above: Only 22 yuan for a large bowl of Mapo Tofu
Their menu did include a wide range of Chinese dishes, but of course, we chose to order Mapo Tofu and ended up sharing the larger bowl (22 yuan). In the beginning, it didn’t taste too spicy, but the more you eat the spicier it gets... It would probably be a good idea to order rice in addition, or you'll probably find it difficult to finish your bowl.
Above: Here it is! A spicy, delicious bowl of Mapo Tofu 
This may or may not be the best Mabo tofu you’ve ever had, but if you like the dish and want to visit a unique restaurant while in Chengdu it might be worth a try. Just be aware that staff doesn’t speak much English, so unless you've mastered Chinese most of your communication will probably be done by pointing and guessing.
Above: It was nice to have some local beer with the Mapo Tofu to soften the strong taste
Finally, the Chen Ma Po Dou Fu chain has more than one store in Chengdu, so if you want to go to the one where it all started you better make sure to use the right address!

Thank you for reading! Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below
- Anette

 Basic Info
  • ・The World’s First Mabo Tofu Restaurant - Chen Ma Po Dou Fu (陈麻婆豆腐老店)
  • ・Address: 197 W Yulong St, LuoMaShi, Qingyang Qu,
        Chengdu Shi, Sichuan Sheng, China, 610000

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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