What is mapo tofu? Mapo tofu is a very popular Sichuan dish made up of tofu and minced meat, cooked in a spicy red sauce. But you can easily make a vegan mapo tofu recipe by substituting the meat for chopped mushrooms.
Are you looking for amazing vegan Chinese recipes? Let me introduce you to the ultimate vegan mapo tofu recipe. Mushrooms take over the meat and there are a few twists but you will still find all the spicy heat from classic Sichuan recipes. The tofu is always in the meat version, the tofu is not the vegan twist!
And I have quite the bonus for this blog post with a tutorial on how to make decorative chopsticks and a wire project for those who have trouble eating with chopsticks.
Exploring Authentic Sichuanese Recipes
Ever since my trip to China, I love trying out authentic Chinese recipes and this authentic mapo tofu is delicious, spicy and really easy to make. Is it as authentic as Chinese grandmas selling chestnuts at the foot of the Wulingyuan forest? Well, it is almost as authentic, I did take one or two liberties to veganize it, but I am sure you will not taste any difference from a truly authentic mapo tofu recipe.
Speaking of real authentic Chinese food, I am reading 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, that it will burn your mouth with the spiciness. 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. I read it just this week, a good three weeks after I had prepared the recipe. As she describes the dish, she also confirmed a discovery I had just made two days before reading her passage. I’ll leave you in suspense as to this mysterious finding…keep reading just below the pinnable photo.
PIN IT FOR LATER https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/266275396703187142
As I was researching Sichuan mapo tofu recipes I came across the English translation of what mapo doufu means and it 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.
I had the pleasure of preparing this dish with my friend and fellow MontrealYouTuber, 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 Vegan Mapo Tofu
My vegan, or interchangeably vegetarian mapo tofu recipe, is made with mushrooms. I used a small 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 are a bit tasteless so they absorb flavor and they have a meatier consistency. Add a bit of garlic (I used my garlic pickled in brown rice vinegar) and ginger, silken tofu and Sichuan peppers. That is pretty much the base of the mapo tofu ingredients.
Now the magic happens when you learn how to make mapo tofu sauce. The key ingredient is chili bean sauce called doubanjiang, a spicy sauce that is a bit oily and bright red. To it, you add a Shaoxing wine (or mirin), a vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch, and water. Oh yes, my one nonauthentic ingredient is miso, a Japanese fermented bean paste. I chose it to replace fish sauce, as a few recipes called for it, not a vegan option.
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 mapo tofu.
Looking for more vegan tofu recipes? Check out this Baked Tofu Manchurian.
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 is truly the best mapo tofu recipe with a vegan twist.
Would you prefer the original version, the meat kind? Just follow the vegan mapo tofu recipe below but switch out the mushrooms for one pound of ground beef. Enjoy!
Vegan Mapo Tofu
- 2.5 Tbsp chili bean sauce
- 2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine or mirin
- 1 Tbsp miso
- 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
- 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 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.
Here are a few more authentic Chinese recipes for you to try: