A Culinary Trip To Denver’s Old Chinatown Through The Doors of Hop Alley

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Photo: Hop Alley 2 Mapo Doufu
Hop Alley Chef Geoff Cox's Mapo Doufu.

Colorado Matters is launching a cooking tour of Colorado. We plan to meet chefs across the state and get the stories behind their food, from five-star sit-down dinners to food trucks.

Photo: Hop Alley 1 Chef Geoff Cox
Hop Alley Chef Geoff Cox.

Since today is the Chinese New Year, we decided to pay a visit to Denver’s Hop Alley. Owner Tommy Lee, whose family is Chinese, says the the name and location of the restaurant offers insight into the history of Chinese immigrants in Colorado. Chef Geoff Cox talks about a dish he prepared for us called Mapo Doufu.

Mapo Recipe

MAPO MOLE (makes 4 quarts)


1 pk guajillo chiles

1 pk mulato negro chiles

1 pk pasilla chiles

20 ea Sichuan chiles


16 ea garlic cloves

4 thumbs ginger, peeled and rough chopped

6 ea shallots, peeled and rough chopped


2 T preserved black bean

1 oz almonds

2 oz sesame seeds


2 T 5 spice

4 oz dried apricots, rough chopped


4 oz Noel chocolate


Remove seeds, stems, and ribs from dried chiles and reserve. Soak dried chiles in hot water until pliable; strain and reserve soak water. Char the seeds, stems, and ribs in a wok until blackened, then rinse in a mesh strainer under cold water. Char the aromatics in a wok until softened. Toast the black beans, almonds, and sesame seeds in a wok. Robot Coupe everything but the chocolate until a rough paste; blend the paste with the reserved chile water in the Vitamix in small batches until smooth. Saute paste, stirring occasionally, until dark brown color, about 30 minutes, and add chocolate until melted and incorporated.


Map Spice Blend


1 C Sichuan peppercorn

1 C Chinese chile flakes

½ C cumin

½ C coriander

¼ C yellow mustard seed

¼ C black mustard seed


Toast and finely buzz

CPR's Xandra McMahon contributed to this report.