Mapo Tofu, also known as Mapo Doufu, is a traditional Sichuan dish that usually contains soft tofu cooked in a spicy, umami sauce characterized by fermented black beans, hot bean paste, hot chili oil, Sichuan peppercorns, garlic, and ginger. The dish typically contains pork or beef in addition to tofu and seitan makes an excellent replacement. I list the seitan as an optional ingredient because you can always squeeze more vegetables in instead if you want.
Mapo Tofu is a heavy, pungent dish and is best served over rice. I also like to include some lighter complementary fare like a cucumber salad, spring rolls, or a sesame cabbage slaw to round out the meal. This is a great meal to impress your world traveler friends who also happen to enjoy “slap-ya-in-the-mouth” spiciness. As you will notice, a few of the ingredients listed are only available in Asian grocery stores. I will give substitutions as best I can, or next time you find yourself in a metropolitan area you should pick up some of these ingredients. You won’t regret it!
Serves 4-6 (depending if served with rice or not)
WHAT YOU NEED
- 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
- 8 or 16oz seitan – patted dry and cut into 1/2 inch cubes – use more or less depending on if you decide to add vegetables – optional
- 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch – separated
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons peanut or high heat vegetable oil
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 1/2 cup green onions, plus additional for garnish – green parts only – finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons hot bean sauce or paste – if you can’t find this, mix 2 tablespoons sambal or other Chinese chili sauce with 1 tablespoon brown rice or mellow white miso until thoroughly combined
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans – rinsed in a colander and minced – or 1 tablespoon of black bean paste if unavailable
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes – or to taste
- 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth – be sure to use low sodium or else your dish will be salty as hell
- 1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine – if unavailable you can substitute plane rice cooking wine, sake, dry sherry, or dry white wine
- 2 teaspoons reduced sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar or agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon Chinese hot chili oil – or to taste – this is pretty easy to find but if you can’t, and you like it hot, just add more crushed red pepper.
- 1 12oz package of firm or extra firm silken tofu – diced into 1/2 inch cubes
- Vegetables – cabbage, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, snap peas, bell peppers, etc. 1-2 cups – optional, only if you want some extra crunch
- Cooked rice to serve. I like long grain brown personally
WHAT YOU DO
- Heat a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and cook, stirring or shaking the pan frequently until toasted and fragrant. Set aside and allow to cool and lightly crush in a mortar and pestle.
- In a medium mixing bowl, mix the seitan with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch until evenly coated.
- In a wok or large deep-sided skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium high heat. Add the seitan and cook, stirring often until browned on all sides. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the seitan to a plate lined with a paper towel and set aside.
- While the seitan is cooking, complete the following:
- In a small bowl, combine the green onions and hot bean sauce. Set aside.
- Place the fermented black beans and the red pepper flakes together in a small measuring cup. Set aside.
- Mix the vegetable broth, rice wine, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and hot oil together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Set aside.
- In a glass or measuring cup, mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with the 1/4 cup of water until blended and set aside.
- In the same wok/skillet, add the garlic and ginger and cook stirring constantly for about 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the green onions and hot bean sauce. Cook, stirring, until fragrant – about 15 seconds.
- Add the fermented black beans and red pepper flakes to
- Add a pinch of the ground Sichuan peppercorns and stir.
- Add the broth, wine, soy sauce, sugar, and oils mixture and bring to a simmer over medium high heat.
- If you are adding vegetables, add them BEFORE adding to tofu so you can stir them thoroughly.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, add the tofu, and cook stirring gently to prevent the tofu from crumbling for about 3 minutes.
- Add the seitan to the wok and stir gentlyyy to combine.
- Add the cornstarch and water mixture and gentlyyyy mix until thickened, about 2-3 minutes.
- Serve at once over rice or by itself sprinkled evenly with remaining Sichuan peppercorns and fresh green onions.