Vegan Szechuan Mapo Tofu
So I have a confession to make. Somehow over the past ten years I have become a bit of a night owl. I use to pride myself on being a morning person in college but that person is no more. One of my favorite things is to hit the gym on Monday nights after a long day. Usually when I get home around 10pm is when my creativity peaks. I light some candles, burn some sage, turn on Netflix in the background and make myself something healthy-ish to eat. Then I attempt to take pictures at night to realize that the lighting in my kitchen isn't great, so I save a bit to photograph the next morning... AND that is why you see me posting pictures of really elaborate food at 7AM via snapchat or IG story.
I've been tinkering with this recipe a little bit. Doubanjiang and Douchi were a little unfamiliar but after several attempts I think I figured out the combo of the two to make a simple and easily approachable mapo tofu. Everyone's taste is different and my own personal guilty pleasure is doubling up on the Szechuan peppercorns. The numbing sensation is addicting and the fermented broad bean paste and black beans add so much depth to this vegan dish. It is super satisfying.
I love the big deep extra salty umami flavor the doubanjiang, a fermented broad bean paste, brings to the table. While dou chi, fermented black bean, has brighter flavor notes to really round out the flavors of the dish to make it a meal. Each brand of doubanjian and dou chi vary in saltiness so taste the dish before adding more salt. If the dish is too salty, add a little bit of sugar to soften the salinity of the dish. My personal favorite of brand of Dou Chi is Lao Ma Gan which I actually discovered when someone's grocery order had accidentally slipped into my basket. Its black bean sauce with chilli crisp and a little bit of nuts. I kept it, researched it and realized its a major staple in Chinese households.
Put this in your repetoir. This dish comes together with very little prep work and shelf stable pantry items.
Vegan Szechuan Mapo Tofu
Prep Time : 10 minutes | Cook Time 15 minutes
1 box roughly 12-16oz Silken Tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes, rinsed and drained
1 cup of mushrooms, sliced shitakes work well, small tight and plump work best
1 tablespoon of Doubanjian
1 tablespoon of Dou Chi, fermented black beans, Lo Gan Ma is my preferred brand
2 tablespoons of dried chillis
½-1 tablespoon of Szechuan chili peppercorns
½ teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of lights soy sauce (omit if you’re gluten free)
2 tablespoons of cooking oil
1 scallion, sliced for garnish
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons of cornstarch of tapioca starch
1 cup of cold water
Wooden spoon or spatula work best
1. In a bowl on the side, mix cornstarch or tapioca starch with the cold water and set it aside
2. Heat oil in 12 in size pan. A large pan works nice because it will give you room to move your tofu around without breaking it.
3. In the hot oil add the Szechuan peppercorn ash and dried chilis. Fry until aromatic but not burnt. Then the doubanjian, douchi, and minced garlic. Let the wok heat up and stir until you can smell the aroma and oils being released.
4. Sautee the cup of mushrooms in the aromatics and cook for two minutes.
5. Add the starch water and bring the the mixture to a boil. Different doubanjian and douchi brands vary in saltiness. Taste first and season with soy sauce and salt.
6. Bring to a boil and stir sauce until the starch cooks to an evenly mixed gravy like texture. Err to the thicker gravy texture because the tofu will dilute the sauce a little bit.
7. Bring the stove to medium-low heat. Add your tofu and braise in liquid for ten minutes, keeping an eye on the consistency of sauce. Add a couple tablespoons of water if necessary if too much evaporates out.
8. To move the tofu without breaking, push the cubes with the back of the spoon. Try to get the gravy and seasonings set before adding the cubes.
9. Serve with freshly steamed rice and garnish with sliced scallions.