Our vegetarian take on ma po tofu, that much-loved tofu braise from China's Sichuan provice, sees mixed mushrooms doing the umami heavy lifting. Other flavour notes you'll recognise from traditional iterations of the dish – doubanjiang, Shaoxing wine and of course, those mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns. For added texture and colour, you could dress these up with Asian greens or snake beans.
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 600 gm mixed mushrooms (shiitake, king brown, shimeji and oyster), coarsely chopped
- ½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, crushed
- 200 gm (¾ cup) doubanjiang (see note)
- 250 ml (1 cup) Shaoxing wine
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 15 gm dried sliced shiitake (soaked in 1 cup boiling water)
- 600 gm silken tofu, cut into 3cm pieces
- 1 bunch garlic chives, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- Shiso leaves, to serve
- 1Heat oil in a deep-sided frying pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden (8-10 minutes).
- 2Add Sichuan pepper, doubanjiang, Shaoxing, soaked shiitake and soaking water to the pan, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced slightly (3 minutes). Mix cornflour and 125ml water together in a small bowl then add to the pan; cook until thickened (1 minute).
- 3Add tofu and gently stir to coat in sauce (2 minutes). Season to taste then stir through the garlic chives and divide among bowls. Top with sesame seeds and shiso leaves.
Doubanjiang, a chilli broad bean paste, is available from Asian grocers.