Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu with Mushrooms

This is not exactly authentic, so apologies in advance if you're looking for a real ma po tofu recipe. Instead, I'm using things that are relatively easy to find in a Chinese grocery store. Ma po tofu is usually made with ground beef or pork, but I substituted various mushrooms for the meat. Often you'll find peas in it as well, but I don't have any around so the mushrooms will have to do. Went down a treat at our Chinese New Year dinner, so I think it's a pretty good substitute for the meaty version!

Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu with Mushrooms

2 800g blocks of tofu (you can use silken tofu, but be careful how much you stir since you don't want it to fall apart; I used semi-soft tofu this time), diced into 1/2 inch cubes
4 spring onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 inch piece of ginger, finely minced
1/3c black bean sauce
1/3c chili sauce
1 tbsp ground Sichuan peppercorns, plus more to garnish
10 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and diced
1 425g can straw mushrooms
50g dried black fungus, rehydrated
4 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water

To rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms, cover them with hot water and let sit for an hour. Remove from water and squeeze out excess moisture, then dice. Reserve the mushroom water.

To rehydrate dried black fungus, soften in warm water for 30 minutes, then cut off the tough stem bits and discard. Slice the remaining fungus into smaller pieces if necessary.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic, ginger and all but 2 tbsp of spring onions and fry briefly until garlic is just beginning to get some color. Add Shiitake mushrooms, straw mushrooms, and black fungus and stir fry for a few minutes. Reduce heat to medium and add black bean sauce, chili sauce, and ground Sichuan peppercorns and mix for one minute. Add tofu and reserved Shiitake mushroom water and mix, then add salt and additional chili to taste. Cover and cook for five minutes. Add some cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce and keep adding and mixing until sauce is thick enough to coat the tofu.
Garnish with a sprinkle of ground Sichuan peppercorns and the reserved 2 tbsp spring onions before serving.

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