Vegan Mapo Tofu

"In this vegan version of mapo tofu, instead of ground pork, finely-chopped eggplant and mushrooms cook down to a meaty consistency that absorbs a richly-savory blend of broad bean paste and mushroom seasoning — two umami-packed ingredients that quickly add long-cooked flavor. Szechuan peppercorns and fresh ginger are balanced by a touch of sugar to round out this moderately-spicy dish. "My grandparents, who were from different parts of the world, colored my flavor map," says Jocelyn Law-Yone, executive chef and co-owner of Thamee in Washington, D.C., a 2020 Food & Wine Best New Restaurant, who came up with this meatless version of the classic Szechuan dish. "My paternal grandfather was from Yunnan, China, where tofu is enjoyed in countless ways by many different tribes. In Burma, where both my grandmothers were born, there's a counterpart of tofu called 'tohu' — it mimics the texture of tofu but tastes nuttier because it is made of besan flour." Known as "Chef JoJo" to her team, Law-Yone combined elements from her grandparents' cooking with her own twists to create this dish. "The additional layers of mushrooms and eggplants are mine but would have been familiar ingredients to all my grandparents.""

MaJo Tofu
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Lydia Pursell
Total Time:
50 mins
Servings:
4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water 

  • 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning (such as Po Lo Ku)

  • 6 to 8 dried red chiles, seeded and roughly chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)  

  • ½ cup neutral oil (such as canola or grapeseed), divided 

  • 2 teaspoons Szechuan peppercorns, finely ground, plus more for garnish

  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped (about 1/4-inch pieces) Japanese eggplant

  • 5 ounces finely chopped button mushrooms (about 1 3/4 cups)

  • 3 tablespoons broad bean paste with red chile oil (such as Sichuan Pixian) 

  • 1 pound firm tofu, drained, patted dry, and cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces 

  • ¾ cup thinly sliced scallions, divided 

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar 

  • ¼ teaspoon toasted sesame oil 

Directions

  1. Stir together 1 cup hot water and mushroom seasoning in a small bowl until well dissolved. Set aside.

  2. Toast chiles in a 14-inch wok over medium-low, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup neutral oil, and cook, stirring often, until chiles turn a rust color, 1 to 2 minutes. (Do not burn chiles.) Transfer mixture to a small bowl; set aside.

  3. Heat remaining 1/4 cup neutral oil in wok over medium. Add ground Szechuan peppercorns, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion, ginger, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until softened, about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high, and add eggplant and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until very tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in broad bean paste until well-combined. Stir in reserved mushroom seasoning mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture has reduced to a thick paste, 5 to 8 minutes.

  4. Stir in tofu and chile-oil mixture. Cook, stirring often, until mixture has thickened slightly, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup scallions, soy sauce, sugar, and sesame oil. Cook, stirring often, until scallions are wilted, about 2 minutes. Top with remaining 1/2 cup scallions, and garnish with ground Szechaun peppercorns.

Note

Find mushroom seasoning, broad bean paste, and Szechuan peppercorns at Asian grocery stores or online at asiafoodusa.com and justasianfood.com.

Suggested Pairing 

Richer-style rosé: Cune Rosado

Related Articles