Mapo tofu is a popular dish from the Sichuan region of China that’s made up of meat and fried silken tofu cooked in an aromatic, spicy red sauce. But you can also make Mapo Tofu by substituting chopped mushrooms for the meat to create a vegan alternative!
Fancy trying some Chinese recipes that are vegan? If so, you need to try this amazing recipe for Mapo tofu. The classic Sichuan version is made with tofu plus ground pork or beef! Are you looking for amazing vegan Chinese recipes? By switching up the meat with loads of chopped mushrooms, you can now enjoy the ultimate vegan Mapo tofu recipe while maintaining the spicy heat from classic Sichuan recipes.
And I have quite the bonus for this blog post with a tutorial on how to make decorative chopsticks and a wiring project for those who have trouble eating with chopsticks.
Exploring Authentic Sichuanese Recipes
Ever since my trip to China, I am always on the hunt for great authentic Chinese recipes and I just found one that is so delicious and easy to make! This Mapo tofu recipe has a spicy kick you will love. It’s almost as good as an authentically made dish from some grandma in China, but with my own twist – which makes it vegan-friendly too!
Speaking of real authentic Chinese food, I once read a wonderful book specifically about Sichuanese cuisine. Well, it is actually the story of the author, Fuchsia Dunlop, an English foreigner who lived in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, and learned the local cuisine in and out. I think many people have a misconception of Sichuanese dishes, so I wanted to share this passage, her reaction to this statement:
“Outsiders, Chinese and foreign, tend to stereotype Sichuanese cuisine as being simply ‘hot and spicy’. It’s a gross oversimplification. What really distinguishes Sichuanese cookery is its mastery of the arts of flavor. Sichuanese chefs delight in combining a variety of basic tastes to create dazzling fu he wei (complex flavors)”.
If you want to check out the book it is called Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China, click here to see more information on this book. Funny enough, the author mentions Mapo tofu in the book.
What does Mapo tofu mean?
As I was researching Sichuan Mapo tofu recipes I came across an English translation, which is pretty hilarious. Ma means pockmarks and Po means old woman or grandma. Tofu is beancurd. So Mapo translates to pockmarked old woman beancurd.
I really don’t think the dish has any resemblance to this description lol. All I do know is that I fell in love with this easy mapo tofu recipe at first bite. You can serve it with a side of rice. In this case, I used the black forbidden rice. This black rise was so luxurious it was considered only good enough for the emperor, hence the name forbidden to the masses.
Cooking and Wire Craft
I had the pleasure of preparing this dish with my friend and fellow Montreal YouTuber, Heather from Heather Boyd Wire. Heather creates beautiful art pieces with wire. From jewelry to cake toppers, to so much more.
We had decided to collaborate on a video project. She created a tutorial on how to decorate your chopsticks with beads and I have included below a second really cool wire project that holds chopsticks together. Check out her tutorial here:
How to Make Mapo Tofu, the Vegan way
The thing I love most about cooking is how it forces you to get into the kitchen and experiment with new flavors, textures, and aromas. This dish was no exception!
The Mapo tofu recipe called for soft silken tofu that has been cut into cubes then fried until crispy before being tossed in a spicy sauce made from ginger root, fresh garlic cloves (minced), Doubanjiang (chili bean sauce), miso, Shaoxing wine, and brown rice vinegar.
My vegan version is made with mushrooms. I used a container of plain white mushrooms and also a handful of wood ear mushrooms. You will find them dried in Asian markets and you just cover them with hot water to bring them back to life. They absorb the sauce’s flavor and they have a meatier consistency.
And let’s not forget the signature ingredient of Shichuan cooking: Sichuan peppers!
What is Sichuan pepper?
Sichuan peppercorns come from an evergreen tree native only to China’s Szechwan province which is why they’re sometimes referred to as Chinese black pepper. The berries grow densely clustered at points where branches meet limbs so you might find this spice paired with other dried herbs like bay leaves for instance!
Sichuan pepper is known for its sharp and spicy flavor. The taste of the spice has been described by some people to be similar to black peppercorn with citrus overtones, which can slightly numb your tongue!
Watch my video as I show Heather how to cook Mapo tofu. And I’ll show you how to prepare the Mapo tofu sauce recipe so you can learn how to control the heat level for a mild or spicy Papo tofu.
I have to say one of my favorite parts of the video is when you hear Mimi’s (Heather’s daughter) reaction when she tastes the vegan Mapo tofu.
This vegan Mapo tofu dish is sure to satisfy even the most meat-loving of eaters! But if your friends and family asking “where’s the beef?” just follow the recipe below but switch out the mushrooms for one pound of ground beef.
Spicy Vegan Mapo Tofu
- 2.5 Tbsp Doubanjiang (chili bean sauce)
- 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or Mirin)
- 1 Tbsp miso paste
- 1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
- 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp cornstarch
- 4 Tbsp water
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1- inch ginger
- 8 oz white mushrooms
- 1 handful dried wood ear mushrooms
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 14 oz silken tofu
- 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper
- 2 green onions
- Cover the wood ear mushrooms with boiling water and re-hydrate for 30 minutes. Drain.
- Meanwhile, combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and mix all together. Set aside
- Mince the garlic cloves and ginger. Slice the green onions. Drain the tofu and cut into about 1-inch cubes. Cube all the mushrooms into bite-size pieces.
- Heat the vegetable oil on medium heat in a large frying pan. Saute the garlic and ginger. When fragrant, add all the mushrooms and cook until tender.
- Add the sauce and stir. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Add the tofu and Sichuan pepper, and gently stir to coat with the sauce. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Serve with a side of rice and top with the sliced green onions.
PIN IT FOR LATER
Check out all the wonderful Chinese dishes prepared by fellow Eat the World members and share with #eattheworld. Click here to find out how to join and have fun exploring a country a month in the kitchen with us!
Culinary Adventures with Camilla: Scallion Pancakes
Pandemonium Noshery: See Ji Tan – Chinese Lion’s Head Meatballs
Amy’s Cooking Adventures: Homemade Fortune Cookies
CulturEatz: Easy Spicy Vegan Mapo Tofu
Magical Ingredients: Biang Biang Noodles
Kitchen Frau: Kung Pao Chicken
Sneha’s Recipe: Quick Pork Fried Rice
Making Miracles Zucchini Stir Fry
Sugarlovespices: Authentic Sichuan Mapo Tofu Recipe
A Day in the Life on the Farm: Lettuce Wraps
Here are a few more authentic Chinese recipes for you to try:
Fabulous recipe. I am sooo happy with the flavor of this dish. It turned out better than I expected. Love an easy recipe that’s super impressive. Thank you for the recipe.
I am so happy you loved the recipe. it’s really a good one. I should make it soon again lol.
This is my daughter’s favorite. Love your mapo tofu as well as the beaded spring chopsticks. Both of these shine like stars in the picture.
Your gorgeous chopsticks have definitely elevated this dish far past ‘ugly pockmarked old woman’ status! Looks absolutely delicious!
This is perfect because my Chinese daughter’s guy decided to become vegetarian so now I will have a dish that he can enjoy as well. Thanks Evelyne.
Oh I am sure it will be a hit Wendy.
This looks absolutely amazing! Super cute chopsticks, too.
They taste better with these chopsticks 🙂
Those chopsticks…… Sooooo beautiful! The tofu dish looks amazing too. As I love mushrooms, I would definitely try t it out! Tofu is actually surprising delicious as well! (I can still remember the first time I got acquainted with tofu. I thought “this doesn’t look like food” – but YUM, down it went!) 😀
They are so pretty and easy to make! I prefer silken tofu to firm, good thing this is what this recipe requires lol.
Omg! This vegan mapo tofu looks and sounds amazing! I’ve got to try this out. 🙂
Love your colourful chopsticks!
Thank you so much and you will not regret making the recipe. Yeah, heather is great, the chopsticks are adorable.
Posting from my phone with sketchy WiFi so don’t know if my last comment went through! Love the flavors in this dish and the DIY chopsticks!
I actually just saw your last 2 comments and approved them, they were in the comment trash.
Yum, the flavors sound divine!!! And the jazzed up chopsticks would be fun to make for a dinner party!
Its a really great dish, I must admit. Yes I LOVE my chopsticks, easy to make too. My friend made a video on youtube for those as well.
My vegan daughter is currently back from Uni so this is jolly useful
Oh for sure you gals should try this, she will love it!
I’m not vegetarian or vegan but I LOVE tofu! This looks incredible, thanks for sharing 🙂
Neither am I but it was my guest’s preference. Not that you would miss the meat here at all 🙂
OMG! I love Tofu, so this would be my fav. I’m so sure of it! Thanks for sharing! Yumm! I so hungry now.
Ha ha so glad you are so excited for this dish Su, hope you make it soon!
I’ve never loved tofu or spicy foods but I’m always willing to try something new — at least for the experience of it. You’ve got some beautiful photos here that make it look very tempting too. And I love that you’ve thrown in a craft project, too. I’m a crafter to the core!
Oh nice I hope you might try the chopstick tutorials then 🙂 The nice thing about this dish is you can control the heat. Not a huge tofu fan either but the silken one is the softest,
When I was younger, every time we had tuna noodle casserole my brother and I ate it with chopsticks. Thanks to that, I can eat with chopsticks really well. Looks like a tasty dish and perfect for meatless Mondays!
OMG Lara that is such a hilarious and great story. And now useful in adult life. I highly recommend this dish.
This is great, absolutely great. Both the recipe and the wire idea, I still have trouble eating with chopsticks!!!
Thank you Amira, it was really delicious I must say. And Heather’s tutorial is perfect for you then 😀
Thx for the great Mapo tofu recipe! I love Sichuan, so I’m sure I would like it. Even though I am not a huge tofu fan.
Thanks Doreen I am sure you would love the dish if you are a fan of this cuisini. Not a huge tofu fan either but the silken one is the softest.
I love the chopsticks! That is so inventive, and they look great. Good for kids who are learning, I bet!
Thanks and yes they are super clever!
This sounds great! I like cooking with tofu so I will need to give this recipe a try.
Thanks Caroline, I am sure you will enjoy this one.
wNot only does this meal sound delicious, but I also love the decorative chopsticks! I’m going to go check out how to make those as well. 🙂
Thanks Kaila, the dish is amazing and I did not link to the decorative chopstick video but you will find it a heather Boyd Wire on Youtube 🙂
I love Mapo Tofu! And the “authentic” recipe uses so little meat, it’s easy enough to leave out. I make a vegan version, too — in fact one of the earlier posts on my blog. I gotta try yours and compare! 🙂 This looks fantastic — thanks.
Thanks! And nice, you know the dish John (and on your blog too). Yes it is true the meat quantities are a lot smaller in real Chinese recipes.
One of my favourite Szechuan dishes! I just bought 2 box of silken tofu…might just turn one into this delicious tofu dish for meatless Monday :-))
Oh nice, you know the dish Angie. Well yes if you bought silken tofu, no choice 😉