Vegan mapo tofu

Mapo tofu originated in Sichuan and is a famous Chinese dish. In the Qing Dynasty, a Granny Chen with a pocky face owned a small restaurant in Chengdu. She cooked tofu, minced either beef or pork together, and added chilli and Sichuan peppercorn to make this a spicy and numbing dish. It soon became very popular in Chengdu and began to spread all over China.

Nowadays, different provinces cook their own versions of mapo tofu. I am from Hong Kong, and over there most people have a lower spice tolerance than the people of Sichuan.

Sichuan peppercorn is rarely used in Cantonese cuisine, so my version doesn’t contain any and tends to be a bit “milder”.

If you have a high tolerance for spicy food and love the tongue-numbing feeling of the Sichuan peppercorn, you can cook 1/2 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil for 3 minutes on medium-low heat until the aroma starts to release.Just be careful not to burn them! Sieve away the peppercorns and use the remaining pepper oil to start step one.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

For this recipe, you can use either firm or silken tofu. I personally like my mapo tofu soft but not easy to break, so I use medium-firm tofu. Cut the tofu into 2cm cubes.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Finely chop the mushrooms.

I used chestnut and enoki mushrooms but feel free to use any of your preferred mushrooms.

If you’ve got a decent food processor that can roughly chop everything, you can use this to chop the mushrooms. Just bear in mind that you want fine dice like in the picture below, not a paste.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Take the spring onion and trim off the root end and remove the dirty outer layers. Cut it into two parts – the white root and the green leaves. Thinly slice and place them in different containers.

Once all the veggies are prepared and ready, let’s start cooking.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan on a high heat. Add the minced garlic and fry until golden.

Add the finely chopped mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add 1-2 tbsp of chilli bean sauce, and stir fry for another couple of minutes.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Chilli bean sauce (Toban Djan) is a spicy sauce made from fermented broad beans and chilli. It’s widely used in Chinese cooking, especially Sichuan cuisine. You can find it easily in Chinese or Eastern Asia supermarket. In the UK, you can also often find it in large supermarkets like Tesco or Sainsbury’s.

Most ready-made chilli bean sauces use a small amount of wheat, so even though this dish looks fairly innocent; it’s NOT gluten-free. For a gluten-free version, replace the chilli bean sauce with gluten-free chilli oil.

K33Kitchen vegan hot sour soup

Add the tofu, sliced white spring onion, and a pinch of white pepper – mix well. If you use silken tofu, stir carefully as it’s very easy to break up the pieces.

Pour in 200 ml water, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Meanwhile, mix together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.

Give the sauce a final taste and add any extra salt if needed.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the tofu very slowly.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Keep stirring gently until the sauce has thickened.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Turn off the heat and sprinkle over the sliced green spring onion. Give it a little stir.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Serve the tofu hot with rice or plain noodles.

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

Another fun fact, in Chinese “Ma” stands for pockmarks. “Po” is the first syllable of pópo, meaning old woman or grandma. Therefore, mapo means an old woman with pockmarks on her face; mapo tofu is sometimes translated as “pocky grandma’s tofu”.

If you have never tried chilli bean sauce before, it’s best to taste it before using it. For me, it is a very mild chilli sauce, if I cook this dish for myself I would add 2 tablespoons of chilli bean sauce plus 1 teaspoon ofhomemade chilli oil (with Sichuan peppercorn). However, King has a much lower tolerance for spicy food and I only added 1 tablespoon of it. I thought that should be quite mild but he still said it was super spicy. Luckily I didn’t cook the Sichuan version, it would have made him cry. 🥵🥵🥵

Mapo tofu is a well-known delicious Sichuan dish full of protein. It is spicy, fun to eat, easy to make and great for meal prep too. If you like spicy Chinese food, you might also be interested in checking out my hot & sour soup/a> and  spicy kung pao cauliflower recipes.

Let me know if you try out this recipe. You can leave a comment below, or take a picture and tag it with #k33_kitchen and share it on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, hope you enjoy my recipes!

K33Kitchen vegan mapo tofuK33Kitchen vegan mapo tofu

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Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 2

Prep.: 5 mins | Cook: 15 mins

Ingredients:
  • 300g tofu, cut into 1-2cm cubes *
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 50g enoki mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, divide the white and green part, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp chilli bean sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil **
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce ***
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce ***
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • Salt to taste
  • Pinch of white pepper
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Instructions:
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan on high heat. Add the minced garlic and fry until golden.
  2. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add 1-2 tbsp of chilli bean sauce, and stir fry for another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the tofu, sliced white spring onion, and a pinch of white pepper – mix well.
  4. Pour in 200 ml water, cover with a lid and turn the heat down to medium. Let the mixture simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, mix together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.
  6. Give the sauce a final taste and add any extra salt if needed.
  7. Pour the cornstarch mixture into the tofu very slowly. Keep stirring gently until the sauce has thickened.
  8. Turn off the heat and sprinkle over the sliced green spring onion. Give it a little stir.
  9. Serve the tofu hot with rice or plain noodles.

* You can use both firm or silken tofu. If you use silken tofu, make sure you stir extra gently because it is easy to break.

** Most ready-made chilli bean sauces use a small amount of wheat, so even through this dish looks fairly innocent; it’s NOT gluten-free. For a gluten-free version, replace the chilli bean sauce with gluten-free chilli oil.

*** Regular soy sauce is made with fermented wheat. Use gluten-free soy sauce if you are gluten intolerant.

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