Recipe for Mapo Tofu (vegetarian edition)
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of collaborating with recipe developer and fellow food blogger Yasmin at lesauce.com to develop our own spin on mapo tofu. Yasmin being a vegetarian, we got creative finding an alternate to the minced pork/beef commonly found in the dish. Mushrooms, king or shiitake, are the perfect replacement. Minced finely and deep fried in a soy sauce, vinegar and salt marinade, the pieces turn out beautifully crisp and with all the umami to pack as good a punch as any pork.
Here is the recipe.
150 g king or shiitake mushrooms
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp Chinese red vinegar
1/4 c peanut, vegetable or canola oil, plus 1/4 c
1.5 lb (700 g) regular tofu, drained and cut into 3/4″ cubes (Small cubes are optimal for sauce coverage)
3 tbs chili paste
1 tbs soy bean paste
5 dried red chilies
1 tablespoon fermented black beans
2 tsp peeled and minced garlic
2 tsp peeled and minced ginger
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
3 tbs cornstarch mixed into 1/3 c water
1 bunch scallions, dark green tops only, finely sliced
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
1. Add mushrooms and 3/4 tsp salt to a small bowl and mix well with your hands, pressing the salt into the mushrooms well. Add soy sauce and red vinegar and mix to combine. Let marinade for 5 minutes, then squeeze out all liquid by pressing mushrooms firmly between paper towels or cheese cloth
2.Heat a wok over high heat, add 1/4 c oil and when hot, add the mushrooms. Separate the pieces so they don’t clump. Once they are golden brown remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to a kitchen paper lined plate. Clean the wok and heat over high again.
3. Add the remaining 1/4 c of oil to the wok and once heated, add the chili paste, soy bean paste, chilies, black beans, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about a minute.
4.Add the water, sugar, and soy sauce and stir well to mix.
5. Slide the tofu in and gently swirl the wok to bathe all of the pieces in the sauce without breaking the cubes, or use a spoon to carefully mix and cover them in sauce. This is very important. No one wants to eat tofu crumbles. The cubes must stay in tact. Lower heat slightly and simmer for 3 minutes.
6. Mix the cornstarch well and then pour evenly into the wok. Again, swirl the wok to incorporate the cornstarch or use a spoon and mix carefully. Simmer for about 3 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
7. Add mushrooms back to wok
8. Sprinkle the scallions over top just before removing from heat. It is also important not to add the scallions too early; it becomes soggy and loses its pungency.
9. Pour onto a platter or transfer the tofu and sauce to a platter carefully. Top with ground Sichuan pepper and serve immediately over white rice.
The colour should be a brilliant red, with enough sauce to soak your rice, and a perfect harmony of salty, sweet, and spicy depth that is topped off with the numbing ground Sichuan pepper.
Even a dish as perfect as this is useless after 15 minutes off the stove, so consume while hot!