Vegetarian Mapo Tofu
Why This Recipe Works
Our version of vegetarian mapo tofu is bold in flavor, with a balanced spiciness. We started with cubed soft tofu, poached gently in salted water to help the cubes stay intact in the braise. For the sauce base, we used plenty of ginger and garlic along with four Sichuan pantry powerhouses: Asian broad bean chili paste (doubanjiang), fermented black beans, Sichuan chili powder, and Sichuan peppercorns. A small amount of finely chopped mushrooms acted as a seasoning, not as a primary component of the dish. In place of the chili oil often called for, we used a generous amount of vegetable oil, extra Sichuan chili powder, and toasted sesame oil. We finished the dish with just the right amount of cornstarch to create a velvety texture.