This is an alternative version of one of my most favourite things ever, mapo tofu. Its silky spiciness and slight yet satisfying chewiness are like a big, warm hug after a day of everyone else talking too much. Most of the time I stick with the traditional combination of tofu and delicious pork as the bulk of this dish, but today I decided to mess with a good thing. The end result is a different kind of good thing.
This might be vegan. However, I am hesitant to call anything that calls for wine or packaged sauces vegan.
Vegetarian Mapo Tofu (Mapo Doufu)
Adapted from Appetite for China
Serves: 6 (with rice)
Time: 1 hour
- 6 dried dong gu/shiitake mushrooms
- 1 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 3 dried red chili peppers
- 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
(Don’t use too much if you are using garlic chili sauce.)
- 1-2 tsp grated ginger
- 16 fresh crimini or button mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Sichuan peppercorn, ground or whole
- 3 Tbsp fermented black beans
- 3 Tbsp chili bean sauce or garlic chili sauce
- 1/2 cup shaoxing/rice wine
- 2-3 Tbsp soy sauce
- 700 g medium or soft tofu, liquid pressed out with paper towel and cut into cubes
- 2 tsp corn starch
- 2-3 tsp cold / room temperature water
- 5-8 green onions, finely sliced
- In a bowl, soak dong gu/shiitake in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Before and After shots, as if you weren’t already sick of the format of all the weight-loss ads of January.
- Remove the rehydrated dong gu (careful, they’ll be quite warm) and squeeze the excess moisture out of them. Remove any visible dirt that may be on the dong gu. Then dice the dong gu and set aside.
- Reserve as much of the dong gu-infused water (broth) as possible, avoiding the dirt at the bottom of the bowl. This gave me about 1 cup.
- In a large pan or wok over medium-high heat, fry the chili peppers in the oil for 30 seconds. Then add the garlic and ginger, stir-frying for another 30 seconds.
- Add the dong gu, fresh mushrooms, and Sichuan peppercorn. Stir-fry until the fresh mushrooms have lost moisture and darkened, 3-5 minutes.
- Push all ingredients in the pan aside to give a space in the centre. To this space add the black beans and chili sauce and stir-fry until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Then mix all ingredients together.
Some direct sauce-on-hot-pan contact. Oh baby, oh baby.
- Add the wine and continue to cook and stir for 2 minutes to let some of the alcohol cook off.
- Add the soy sauce and broth, mix thoroughly, then bring the mixture up to a boil.
- Fold in the tofu, being careful to not break up the cubes too much. Bring the mixture up to a simmer then turn down the heat to medium-low. Let simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
10 minutes of convincing myself not to stir.
- Remove and discard the whole dried chili peppers.
- In a small bowl, mix the corn starch with the 2-3 tsp water to form a slurry. Add this mixture to the mapo tofu and fold well in order to evenly distribute the starch throughout the sauce.
- When the sauce thickens, turn off the heat. Fold in the green onions.
- Serve hot with rice.