Occasionally I search blogs and instagram for inspiration. I found the best way for me is to search non vegan blogs and then “veganise” the recipe.. which is exactly what I did for this version of Mapo Tofu, a very popular Chinese dish.

Mapo tofu is essentially tofu that is cooked and served in a delicious, spicy, umami rich sauce, topped with Sichuan pepper which leaves a spicy and rather strange, numb sensation in the mouth!

This is my second mapo tofu recipe. I have boldly deleted the other one because this one is very similar but a lot better! This time round I used a fermented bean paste called Doubanjiang, which adds another dimension of flavour and complexity, making it closer to the traditional recipe.

I have also added shiitakes for the ‘minced meat’ taste and umami texture. This recipe a true umami bomb!

Shiitake dashi

20g dried shiitakes
500ml water

1. Bring the water up to the boil in a pot. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down to low and cook for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.

2. Strain the dashi in a colander and squeeze the liquid from the shiitakes.

3. Chop the shiitakes into small pieces and use them in the next recipe.

Mapo tofu

165g tofu
3 large cloves garlic (roughly sliced)
1 tbsp grate ginger 
100g sliced leek
275g shiitake dashi (stock) + 1 tsp potato starch
chopped shiitakes from dashi
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp doubanjing
2 tsp coconut sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
pinch salt
pinch Sichuan pepper

1. Mix the starch and the shiitake dashi and set aside.

2. Heat up 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan, add the garlic and cook on a low heat until its nicely caramelised. (It should be a nice golden brown color.)
Remove the garlic and keep the remaining oil in the pan.

3. Add the leek, shiitakes, ginger, and a big pinch of salt, cook for 3 minutes on a medium heat. Then add the tofu and cook for another 2 minutes.

4. Add the tamari, doubanjiang, coconut sugar and the shiitake dashi mix and cook until the liquid thickens.

5. The sauce should now be nice and thick. Finish with rice vinegar, and if you want an extra authentic mapo tofu experience, add a pinch of ground sichuan pepper!

Serve with steamed white rice and top with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro!