Plant-Based Twist on a Classic Dish
A beloved Chinese delicacy hailing from the Sichuan Province, Mapo Tofu has garnered international popularity for its fiery flavors and unique numbing sensation induced by the Sichuan Peppercorn. Traditionally a dish that uses ground meat, we're embarking on a plant-based culinary journey to recreate the iconic Mapo Tofu using delectable plant-based Shroomeats. This adaptation pays homage to the dish's rich heritage and flavors while offering a sustainable alternative to animal products that satisfies both the palate and conscience.
The Allure of Mapo Tofu
Mapo Tofu has transcended its Sichuan origins to grace tables worldwide. Its journey from provincial specialty to global sensation showcases its remarkable ability to captivate taste buds across cultures. With diverse adaptations that cater to varying spice tolerances and tastes, this dish has evolved while retaining its essence—a spicy savory symphony that envelops tender tofu. I grew up eating my mother’s Taiwanese version of this dish which is significantly less spicy than its Sichuan counterpart. However, as I began making this dish myself, I began incorporating more spice and eventually arrived at the recipe we are detailing today.
Plant-Based “Ground Meat”: Shroomeats Shred-It
This recipe wholeheartedly embraces plant-based ingredients that not only honor our principles and diets but also offer robust flavors and substantial textures. Traditional Mapo Todu already uses a variety of plant-based ingredients with the only animal product being ground meat. We can easily replace this with Shroomeats Shred-It, a vegan alternative that uses shiitake mushrooms as its main ingredient. The mouthfeel of Shroomeats Shred-it is impeccable, giving the perfect texture of ground beef. It also quickly soaks up flavors, making it a great replacement that fits the vibrant notes of Mapo Tofu.
Selecting Your Tofu
There is no hard and fast rule for what type of tofu you must use. Firm tofu has more flavor while silken tofu has a beautifully soft consistency. Each has unique qualities and you can use your preferred selection. I enjoy silken tofu so that is what the recipe below will use.
⅓ cup neutral cooking oil
3 tablespoons ginger finely minced
4 tablespoons garlic finely minced
2 scallions finely chopped
2 bird’s eye chili peppers finely chopped
1 tablespoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns
3 tablespoons dried red chili powder
¾ cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons dou ban jiang (豆瓣醬）
5 tablespoons thin soy sauce (will be divided)
1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
1 packet Shroomeats
1 block silken tofu cut into cubes
1 teaspoon cornstarch
¼ cup water
Creating Vegan Mapo Tofu:
- In a large bowl, thoroughly mix Shroomeats Shred-It with 3 tbsp of thin soy sauce, let sit.
- Heat oil in pan on medium heat. Once oil is hot, toss in garlic, ginger, and dou bang jiang. Stir fry until fragrant (15-30 seconds depending on your heat source).
- Add marinated Shroomeats and bird’s eye chilis. Stirfry for 2 - 4 minutes.
- Add Sichuan peppercorns and dried chili powder. Mix for 15-30 seconds, then immediately add broth. Turn heat to high and continue gently mixing until a rolling boil.
- Mix in remaining thin soy sauce and thick soy sauce. There should be enough liquid to cover all the ingredients. Add water as needed.
- Add tofu and turn heat back to medium. Cook for another 5 minutes. This is a good time to taste for any seasoning adjustments.
- Mix cornstarch and water into a slurry. Add slurry and mix to thicken the dish to your desired consistency. Turn off heat. Thicken to desired consistency.
- Garnish with scallions and serve.
Tips and Optional Ingredients
Feel free to adjust the spice level to your liking. You can do this by increasing or decreasing the amount of birds eye chilis, red chili powder, and Sichuan peppercorn in the dish. Keep in mind that different types of chilis and the freshness of the ingredients will have an effect on the spice level. My go-to chili powder for this dish is a red chili powder which does not contain seeds. This gives the dish to have a pleasing red color without being too spicy. The freshness of your Sichuan peppercorns will also have a big impact on the spice, especially the numbing effect. The fresher your peppercorns are, the spicier they will be.
Do not burn your Sichuan peppercorn! It will turn extremely bitter. The liquid that is added 10 seconds after mixing in the peppercorn prevents this issue. If you are not confident that the peppercorns will not burn, you can use store-bought Sichuan peppercorn oil instead.
Sesame oil is an optional ingredient. If you enjoy the fragrance and flavor, add ¼ tablespoon at the end of the cooking process between steps 6 and 7. You can double the amount if desired.
Sugar may be necessary to balance the flavor. The thick soy sauce I usually use already has a sweetness to it, so I omit sugar. However, when you taste test your dish feel free to add a teaspoon or two of sugar.
The Resulting Symphony on Your Plate
This version of vegan Mapo Tofu showcases the marriage of tradition and innovative plant-based food. The tender silken tofu and hearty Shroomeats intertwine in a spicy embrace, yielding an exquisite harmony of flavors that reflects my mother’s cooking while fully embracing plant-based cuisine. This is one of my favorite dishes to make and I hope you give this recipe a try.