Ma Po Tofu is a traditional Chinese dish from Sichuan Province, that is both flavorful and easy to make. Our version is totally plant-based and fully delicious, so make sure you give it a try. The secret to a good Ma Po Tofu is using doubanjiang and Sichuan peppercorns.
Doubanjiang is a hot and savory Chinese bean paste made from fermented broad beans, chili peppers, soybeans, salt, and flour. You can usually find it in Asian stores, and in some supermarkets in their International section. Despite its name, Sichuan pepper is not closely related to either black pepper or chili pepper. When eaten, Sichuan pepper produces a tingling and numbing effect and has a distinctive and recognizable flavor.
14 oz block soft tofu, not silken (or 400 g)
1 tbsp sesame oil
¼ lb vegan pork, minced (or 450 g) or 1 punnet (250 g) of mushrooms*, diced**
2 tbsp doubanjiang, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 tbsp Chinese fermented black beans (optional)
1 cup vegan stock* (chicken, mushroom, or vegetable flavor)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch, whisked into 2 tbsp water
½ tsp ground Sichuan pepper, or to taste
Green onions/scallions/spring onions, to serve
- Bring a pan of water to a boil, and add a generous pinch of salt.
- Cut the tofu into small cubes and gently add them to the pan. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and simmer for two minutes to blanch the tofu. Remove from the heat and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
- Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium heat, then add the vegan pork or mushrooms. Stir-fry until the pork has browned or the mushrooms have cooked.
- Turn down the heat and add the doubanjiang and cook, stirring, until it has begun to release its oils and turn everything red.
- Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further minute.
- Stir in the Chinese fermented black beans, if using.
- Next, turn the heat back up again and stir in the stock and soy sauce, making sure to deglaze your pan.
- Once the pan is back up to a simmer, strain the tofu and gently stir it and your ground Sichuan pepper into the pan. Move the tofu around gently so you don’t break it up.
- Pour the cornstarch slurry into the pan and let the pan come back up to a simmer, still stirring gently. After about a minute, your sauce should be thick and glossy.
- Serve over cooked rice, topped with sliced green onions, and maybe some Chinese steamed greens or green beans as a side dish.
*Up to half of your mushrooms can be dried Chinese mushrooms (also called black mushrooms or dried Shiitake mushrooms), soaked in warm water for 20-30 minutes. You can then use the mushroom soaking water as your stock, or as the basis for stock with added vegan bouillon paste. If you want to make this as a quick weeknight dinner, you can leave the mushrooms soaking in cold water in the fridge in the morning – then they’ll be ready to use by dinner time.
**Feel free to use whichever mushrooms you have to hand – button, shiitake, and oyster all work particularly well in this recipe.
Try our delicious Collard Greens recipe for a delicious side dish.
Keywords: main dish, tofu, Chinese, easy, 30 minutes or less