I am a lover of ethnic foods! And ever since getting pregnant with Kysen I have wanted my ethnic dishes (and every dish, really) SPICY, SPICY, SPICY! Ma Po Tofu is a Chinese dish from the Sichuan province that traditionally features tofu and ground pork or beef. When I lived in Maryland there was a local hole in the wall (“Michael’s Noodles”) that did a version of this dish that was vegetarian and it was out of this world delicious (my mouth is watering)! Since moving to the Bay Area and being surrounded by (arguably) the world’s best Chinese food outside of China, I was optimistic that I would find an establishment that made a decent vegetarian version. But alas, I have had to take the matter into my own hands!
Luckily the internet and the Chinese grocery (literally down the street from my house) have enabled me to make the perfect vegetarian version of this famous Sichuan dish after just a few tries! I hope you enjoy eating it as much as I do! Most of these ingredients will be hard to come by if you don’t have an Asian grocery near you, but with the aid of the web you could certainly order the specialty ingredients you need or modify accordingly.
THE ULTIMATE VEGETARIAN MA PO TOFU RECIPE
- 1/3 cup Black bean paste or sauce (has some whole black beans, beans are small, may be combined with garlic)
- Sichuan pepper paste or sauce — to taste, quite spicy (I found mine in a black can and the peppers are ground up)
- Jalapeno peppers, sliced — to taste
- 1/3 cup red pepper paste (I used a Korean version that comes in a red tub, a slightly sweet spicy)
- Ginger, mined –to taste (I like mine gingery, so I used 1/3 cup)
- Garlic, minced (unless already in Black Bean paste, then omit)
- 2 Green onions, chopped (keep the white and green parts)
- 1/2 cup leeks, chopped
- 1/3 cup Peanut Oil
- 2 teaspoons cornflour mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
- 1/2 cup vegetable broth
- 2 large blocks tofu (medium to firm consistency), cubed
- cooked white rice
- Chop all of your ingredients, as indicated above. Heat your peanut oil over medium high heat and add your leeks and the white portion of your chopped green onions. Stir as they cook.
- After your leeks and onions are almost fully soft add the minced ginger and jalapeno slices and continue to stir for about 2 minutes or until the vegetables are just under fully cooked.
- Add your black bean paste and red pepper paste and stir the mixture. Add your Sichuan pepper paste one tablespoon at a time, tasting in between additions so as not to over season. Stir the sauce well. Add the vegetable broth and the cornflour mixture, continuing to stir.
- Add the tofu cubes and use the back of your cooking spoon to gently push the tofu around your pan, so as not to break apart the tofu cubes.
- Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir periodically. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the tofu is cooked and heated through.
- Serve with fresh white rice and steamed vegetables. Garnish the tofu with the reserved green ends of the green onion.
I swear by my recipe if you are a Ma Po Tofu lover like I am! I have already made it several times for friends and family and everyone has enjoyed it! I think we all need to dramatically lower our consumption of meat and this is a great vegetarian dish that is hearty enough for the most avid meat-lover!
Please give it a try and let me know how you like it! I’d also love to hear of any creative solutions for hard-to-find Asian ingredients you use in your own cooking!