"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.""