Vegan Mapo Doufu
To celebrate the NAC Orchestra’s China Tour this fall, try this fragrant and spicy dish at home. It’s the NAC’s vegetarian version of the traditional Sichuanese “Mapo Doufu” which, according to legend, originated in the kitchen of an elderly woman living on the outskirts of Chengdu in the late 19th century. In this version, ground pork is replaced with barley and cooked in aromatic garlic and ginger broth, fresh and dried chilies, and fermented black beans. The tofu is marinated for four hours, injecting fresh flavours into each mouthful. It is then seared in a hot skillet to produce a most satisfying crisp surface surrounded by a silky, soft and flaky interior. All it takes is one taste to be swept away to the magical far-east.
Makes 4 servings
600 g – medium-firm tofu (sliced crosswise ½ inch thick slices)
1 tbsp – Sichuan peppercorns (crushed)
1-3 pc – hot chilies (crushed) Choose how many based on desired spiciness.
2 pc – fresh bird’s eye chili (sliced thinly for garnish)
3 cloves – fresh garlic (peeled and sliced thinly)
30 g – fresh ginger (peeled and chopped in small matchsticks)
200 g – par-cooked barley
(cooked in salted water until nearly tender, then cooled and set aside – can be done ahead of time)
300 ml vegetable stock (no salt)
125 g cornstarch
1 tbsp fermented black beans (rinsed and crushed)
2 pc green onions (sliced thin on a bias)
1 pc white of one leek (washed and sliced crosswise)
2 cups tamari soy sauce
10 leaves of fresh cilantro
8 tbsp canola oil (or another high smoke point cooking oil)
- Marinate tofu slices in 1.5 cups tamari soy sauce, half of the garlic, half the ginger and 2 of the fresh chilies. Turn them each 30 minutes and marinate for 2-4 hours.
- In a heavy bottomed pan or pot heat 4 tbsp of oil on high heat. Add Sichuan pepper, dried chilies, black beans and stir quickly. Add remaining garlic and ginger and the sliced leeks and sauté for approximately one minute, not allowing the garlic and leeks to brown.
- Add the barley to the pan and stir in the vegetable stock and remaining tamari soy sauce.
- Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- In a non-stick skillet heat 4 tbsp of oil on highest temperature setting. While oil is heating remove tofu slices from marinade and coat them all with a light dusting of cornstarch.
- When the oil is quite hot add the tofu slices carefully and sear them until lightly browned and crisp on all sides. This shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes on each side. When finished place them on a paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Check the barley and sauce mixture and taste for seasoning. If more salt needed add a little more soy sauce. The mixture should be quite saucy and if not more vegetable stock can also be added to achieve the proper consistency.
- To plate the dish, serve with your favourite vegetables on the side, good matches for flavor would include sautéed wild mushrooms, steamed Asian greens or stir fried mixed vegetables. Arrange the tofu slices on a
- platter, then pour the sauce and barley mixture over the top. Garnish with sliced green onions, cilantro leaves and sliced fresh chilis and lotus rootlets if available.
By NAC Executive Chef John Morris
Story expanded from Prélude magazine, Autumn: Cusine