This is inspired and adapted from Omnivore’s Cookbook Mapo Tofu recipe. It’s so easy, so delicious and loaded with spice and umami funk.
In the Beforetimes, I would usually go to H-Mart in Cambridge to grab things like Doubanjiang and Sichuan peppercorns, which are essential to this dish. While there, I would either visit a friend or explore some part of downtown and find some vegan place to eat at. I really miss doing that. To get these two things for this recipe, I just ordered them from amazon, from my home, in my daytime sweatpants. : (
Traditional Mapo Tofu uses ground beef or pork in the sauce, but I used minced fresh shiitakes here. You could probably also use crumbled tempeh (steam first).
for the marinade
- 2 tsp dry sherry
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp finely minced ginger
- 2 tsp grated garlic (grated on a microplane grater)
- 2 scallions, chopped (separate white and green parts, use white parts here and reserve green parts for serving)
- 4 tsp finely minced shallots
for the rest
- 2 TB vegetable oil
- 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
- 1 cup minced shiitake mushrooms
- 2 TB Doubanjiang
- 1/4 cup hot vegetable broth
- 15 oz. block tofu, diced into 1X1-inch cubes (I used Kettle-style firm)
- 2 tsp chili oil
- 1 cup hot vegetable broth
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp cornstarch, whisked with 1 TB water in a small bowl
- the reserved green parts of the chopped scallions
- more chili oil, if desired
- rice (optional)
to make the marinade
- Combine the sherry, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, scallions and shallots in a small bowl. Set aside.
- In a large cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, warm the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the peppercorns. When they turn brown and crispy, strain them through a fine mesh sieve, catching the oil in a small bowl. Scrape the oil back into the skillet and reserve the peppercorns.
- Reduce the skillet heat to medium. Add the shiitakes and allow to cook down for several minutes. Add the Doubanjiang and stir to combine.
- Add the 1/4 hot cup broth to deglaze and loosen the mixture.
- Add in the bowl of marinade. Stir to combine.
- Gently place the tofu on top of the shiitakes in the skillet.
- Whisk the chili oil, and vegetable broth together in a small measuring cup. Pour over the top and allow to come to a simmer. Don’t stir or touch the tofu or it will break up. As it braises, it will firm up and then you can stir it.
- Reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes. The sauce will reduce and the tofu will absorb the marinade and develop a nice texture.
- Add in the sugar and gently stir with a rubber spatula.
- Add the cornstarch slurry to the skillet. Gently stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
- Ground the reserved peppercorns in a coffee grinder.
- Divide the tofu into two bowls. Top with the reserved green onions, more chili oil and the ground peppercorns, to taste.
- Serve as is or with rice.
Braised tofu is amazing: pillowy soft and a perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture. I’ll be making and shoving this into my face often!