The mapo tofu recipe is one of the most popular tofu dishes to have migrated from China. To make this recipe vegan, we omitted the ground pork and substituted chopped shiitake mushrooms.
The result is a dish that retains all its umami flavors despite being vegetarian/vegan.
Creating A Vegan Version
Like our original mapo tofu, this vegan version is quite comparable. In place of ground pork, we’re adding finely chopped shiitake mushrooms to enhance the dish’s savory flavor.
Adding fermented black beans to the dish also gives it a delicious bite.
With everyone attempting to eat less meat lately, I’ve started preparing this version more frequently at home, and I have to say, it’s delicious!
Which Tofu Should Be Used?
It is important to use silken or soft tofu to prepare mapo tofu. Because of their high water content, these forms of tofu have the velvety, custard-like feel that mapo tofu should have.
Silken tofu, or even firm tofu, is recommended in specific online recipes. That’s just plain wrong, in our opinion.
Silken tofu and soft tofu are, in fact, extremely delicate and can easily break up if handled incorrectly. Tofu is tender and should be handled carefully when you slice and mix it. When stirring, use a gradual folding motion to prevent the tofu from breaking apart in the sauce. Silken tofu was used in this recipe, but soft tofu is a lot easier to handle!
We’re ready to get started!
- 4 tbsp. of vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp. of Sichuan peppercorns (reserve 1/4 teaspoon for garnish at the end)
- 3 tbsp. of ginger (finely minced)
- 3 tbsp. of garlic (finely minced)
- 1 tbsp. of fermented black beans
- 1-2 pcs. of Thai bird chilies (thinly sliced)
- 4 oz. of shiitake mushrooms (finely chopped)
- 1-2 tbsp. of spicy bean sauce (depending on your desired salt/spice levels)
- 1 tbsp. of chili oil
- 2/3 cup of water (or vegetable or mushroom broth)
- 2 tsp. of cornstarch (mixed with 1 tablespoon water)
- 1 lb. of silken tofu (or soft tofu, 450g, cut into 1-inch cubes)
- 1/4 tsp. of sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp. of sugar
- 1 scallion (finely chopped)
- Stir-fry the ground Sichuan peppercorns and vegetable oil in a wok over low heat, reserving 1/4 tsp for decoration.
- Finish the dish by adding the ginger and cooking for another 30 seconds. Cook for a further 30 seconds after adding the garlic. Cooking will be done in a matter of seconds if you give it another minute. Add the black beans and the chili peppers to the mixture and mix well. Cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Incorporate the mushrooms and bring the heat up to medium. The mushrooms should be tender and gently browned, about 5 minutes.
- Toss in the chili oil and the spicy bean sauce, and mix thoroughly until everything is coated. Stir in 2 to 3 cups of liquid, such as broth or water, to the pot. Remove the mixture from the heat after one minute of bubbling.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and water until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. To ensure that the sauce thickens, pay attention to the sauce while it cooks (if it gets too thick, splash in more water or stock). Make more cornstarch slurry and stir it if the sauce is too thin. Depending on how hot your house is, there may be some variances.
- Once you’ve added the tofu to the wok, stir it gently until it’s coated in sauce. Add the sesame oil, sugar, and scallions after the tofu has simmered for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Stir everything together one last time, and check the seasoning. You probably won’t need to add salt, as the spicy bean sauce and fermented black beans are already salty. Serve with a final sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorn powder on top for presentation.