Mapo Tofu Goes Vegetarian.
- 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cups water
- 15 ounce block of soft tofu (do not use silken), or marinated tempeh
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 small dried hot red peppers or less as you choose
- 1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed or use adzuki beans
- 1 tablespoon fermented spicy broadbean paste (doubanjiang)or to keep it mild white miso
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon finely ground Sichuan pepper
- 1 tablespoon corn- or potato starch, dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water
- ½ cup slivered scallions, both white and green parts
- Cilantro sprigs, for garnish
- Remove stems from mushrooms. Make a light mushroom broth by simmering stems in 2 cups water for 15 minutes, then strain and reserve broth (discard stems). Dice mushroom caps and set aside.
- Cut tofu/tempeh into 1-inch cubes. Cover with boiling salted water, let steep for 15 minutes, then drain.
- Put oil in a wok or wide skillet over medium heat. Add red peppers, black beans and bean paste and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add garlic and ginger and let sizzle, then add mushrooms, soy sauce, sesame oil and Sichuan pepper. Add 1 1/2 cups mushroom broth and cook mixture gently for 2 minutes.
- Carefully add tofu cubes. Shake pan to distribute sauce, using a wooden spoon to help. Try to avoid smashing tofu. Drizzle in cornstarch mixture, gently swirling pan to incorporate (sauce will thicken) and simmer tofu in sauce for 2 minutes more. Thin with a little mushroom broth if necessary. Transfer to a low bowl or platter. Sprinkle with scallions and cilantro sprigs.