This Sichuan sizzler is popular in Asia, originating from the good people of Sichuan in China where Mapo Tofu is a staple dish. It is normally made with beef or pork but that would be awful so we used mushrooms instead. It also traditionally uses silken tofu but we used pressed, firm tofu to give it more of a bite. You could switch the mushrooms for another veggie mince, TVP or soya mince. This dish has a spice warning so beware, but the sauce has complex and rich flavours and is surprisingly quick and easy to make.
400g block tofu well-pressed
2 tbsp Chinese spicy black bean sauce – can be found in Chinese Supermarkets or online
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
200g oyster or shitake mushrooms
1 red chilli, finely sliced in rounds
1 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 cup of sunflower oil
1 tbsp cornflour
1/2 cup of vegetable stock
1/2 tsp sugar
1-2 spring onions, mostly the green part, sliced
First you need to make chilli oil. If you have roasted chilli oil already then you can miss this step out. In a frying pan or wok heat 1/4 cup of the oil on a medium heat. Add the red chilli slices to the hot oil along with the chilli flakes and turn down the heat. Allow to cook gently for 5 minutes, stirring every now and again and making sure the peppers don’t burn. Remove from the heat and pour the chilli oil into a heat-proof dish to infuse whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat the rest of the oil in the same frying pan on a medium heat. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorns and allow to heat whilst stirring. next add the grated ginger and heat for a minute, stirring all the while. Now add the minced or finely chopped garlic and allow to fry for a further minute. Next add the chopped mushrooms, frying them until they are cooked and have released their liquid. Keep stirring the pan to avoid sticking. When the mushrooms have reduced, add the bean sauce and the 1/2 cup vegetable stock. Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes.
In a small bowl, mix 1 tbsp cornflour with 1/4 cup water and mix to combine. Add to the pan and mix into the bean mixture to thicken it. Allow the sauce to come to the boil.
Dice the tofu into cubes about 2cm square. Add the reserved chilli oil – including the peppers – along with the tofu cubes to the pan and stir so everything is well mixed. Continue to boil the sauce gently to thicken, tossing the tofu carefully so it is completely coated with sauce. Add 1/2 tsp sugar and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chopped spring onions just before removing from the heat. Season to taste.
Serve with steamed rice. This dish is fairly spicy so the rice can be a welcome relief.