SERVES 4 TO 6
Mapo tofu has been on the menu since back when Mission Chinese Food first popped up in San Francisco. Over the years, we’ve tweaked the recipe approximately one hundred times, and this vegan version is the best yet, not to mention the easiest for the home cook. What used to take days to make is ready in less than an hour.
Note: This recipe calls for doubanjiang, a coarse reddish paste of fermented soybeans, broad beans, and chilies common in Sichuan cooking. Look for “Pixian” on the label, which means it hails from a town in Sichuan province known for making the product.
2 cups (2 ½ ounces) dried shitake
2 tablespoons Mushroom Seasoning Powder, homemade or store-bought
Scant 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 pounds soft silken tofu, drained and cut into 1 ½-inch cubes
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup olive, canola, or grapeseed oil
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup Sichuan doubanjiang (chili-bean paste)
½ cup finely chopped garlic (about 3 ounces)
½ cup finely chopped ginger (about 2 ¼ ounces)
2 tablespoons Black Bean Sauce
3 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)
3 tablespoons store-bought Sichuan peppercorn oil
3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorn powder, or more to taste
½ cup Chili Oil, homemade or store-bought
2 cups loosely packed roughly chopped cilantro
1 cup loosely packed roughly chopped Chinese yellow chives
Put the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl along with the mushroom seasoning powder, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt. Pour in 2 cups boiling water, stir, and soak for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water (a few generous pinches should do it) to a boil. Add the tofu, let the water return to a boil, then drain the tofu gently and well. (This helps flavor the tofu and keeps it from falling apart later.) In a small mixing bowl, stir together the cornstarch and 1/4 cup water and set it aside.
Drain the mushrooms, reserving the liquid in a bowl. Use scissors to snip off and discard the tough stem nubs, gently squeeze the mushrooms over the bowl to remove excess liquid, then chop the mushrooms into 1/4- to 1/8-inch pieces.
In a large heavy pot, heat the oil over high heat until it smokes. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they brown a bit, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it begins to stick to the pot, 2 to 3 minutes more. Stir in the doubanjiang, garlic, ginger, and black bean sauce and cook for a minute or two, then stir in the gochugaru and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Let come to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to gently simmer and stir in the Sichuan peppercorn oil and Sichuan peppercorn powder.
While stirring, drizzle in the cornstarch mixture, increase the heat, and let come to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and add the tofu. Cook, stirring gently so the cubes are coated in the sauce but stay more or less intact, until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve it with rice and garnish bowls with the chili oil, herbs, and another sprinkle of Sichuan peppercorn powder to taste.
Reprinted with permission from From Mission Vegan: Wildly Delicious Food for Everyone by Danny Bowien with JJ Goode. Copyright 2022 by Danny Bowien. Excerpted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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