I'm a bit confused. I loooove mapo doufu...ate it every chance I had during my years in Taiwan.
Now, back in LA, I've had mapo doufu at several Sichuan restaurants, but it doesn't always taste like the stuff in Taiwan:
The Taiwanese mapo dofu seemed to be flavored primarily by the chili bean sauce (doubanjiang), with good chili heat and a thickish sauce (with some Sichuan pepper "mala" tingle). I've had two versions in LA that were overpoweringly full of Sichuan pepper; that's all I could taste. Plenty hot, but no chili bean sauce taste. They tasted almost like a Cantonese version (yuck) with a truckload of Sichuan pepper in it. Moreover, the sauce was very thin.
(For Los Angelenos...Hu's Szechuan in West LA had a version that was very much like the Taiwanese stuff, but Oriental Pearl--Valley Blvd. branch and Szechuan Express in San Gabriel/Monterey Park had the pepper-heavy versions.)
Further complicating matters is Fuschia Dunlop's Sichuan cookbook, "Land of Plenty". I've made her recipe for mapo doufu twice (followed instructions to the letter), using Pixian doubanjiang as she recommends (chuan pi pai brand "Pixian County Chili Sauce"), and the recommended amount of Sichuan pepper (1/4 tsp per pound of tofu). Wouldn't you know it, but this came out different from both the Taiwanese and the LA-Sichuan types, but closer to the Taiwanese in flavor (it was delicious BTW). (I've also tried Ken Hom's and the Weichuan book recipes, but those were so bad I've blanked them from memory.)
Now, my question is: which one is "authentic" Sichuan mapo doufu? Should it have just a blast of Sichuan pepper and straight heat or should it be chili bean sauce-heavy?
Not sure whether this should be posted on the LA, Home Cooking, General or Int'l boards since it's a mix of all of 'em...so I put it on the General Board...apologies if wrong.