Mandy Lee’s MaPo Tofummus Made Vegan
I absolutely love mapo tofu! It’s one of the few dishes I am able to get vegan at various Asian restaurants. When I saw this recipe where Mandy Lee turned mapo tofu into a dip i.e. mapo tofummus, I was wildly excited to give it a try. The recipe from her cook book The Art of Escapism Cooking involves some non-vegan ingredients including stocks and animal meat, but nothing so severe this couldn’t be veganized with some simple edits.
Gathering some of the more difficult-to-find ingredients like Sichuan douba and fermented black beans may seem like a chore (and was a bit difficult for me to find in Portugal) but it’s all worth the effort because once you make this, you will make it again and again and those ingredients will not go to waste.
Mapo Tofummus is the perfect recipe to try is you are in a rut and want to experience some new textures and flavors and a flavorful spice experience. It’s both creamy and “meaty”, spicy and cooling, while being familiar and exotic.
Ingredients for Mapo Tofummus
This recipe is split into three parts, the “tofu hummus” the tofu meat and then the super vibrant and intense pepper saturated “meat”. The “tofu hummus” portion of the recipe is pretty straight forward. You basically blend tofu with garlic confit puree and some salt and sesame oil, all which are pretty accessible.
Making the meat from tofu is also pretty straight forward. If you have ever made tofu scramble before, you got this.
The pepper punch and complexities of the “spicy meat” will take a bit more effort, but I will walk through substitutes and alterations below.
The creative liberty I took with this dish was to sprinkle black rice on top of the dish, just a bit. Mandy Lee says you can eat it as a dip or with rice, so I did a little combo of both.
If you have garlic and oil, you have garlic confit. There are a few different ways you can make this, one using the stove top and one using the oven. You basically boil the garlic in oil, so you can choose how you do it. The stove top version is much quicker.
A great thing about making garlic confit is that you are actually also making garlic oil at the same time. This recipe only calls for 3 cloves of garlic for the tofummus, but why not take the opportunity to make a batch of delicious garlic spread and garlic infused oil for the next few weeks?
This spicy and savory puree is a mixture of fermented broad bean, soybean, and spices mixed into a paste. This has become a popular staple in Sichuan cooking and a familiar mapo tofu flavor. If you are feeling adventurous, you can certainly make your own or easily find it here or at your local Asian market.
Fermented Black Beans
Fermented black beans give this dish an umami kick. If you can’t find the fermented beans, you can use a dark miso paste to substitute. Whatever direction you go, make sure not to skip this step.
Gochugaru is a very specific flavor that can’t be replaced with anything else. If you are looking to get the details right in this dish right, don’t skip it. It comes in the form of a ground flake and gives that extra “something” to the dish.
Ground Sichuan Peppercorn
I was unable to find ground Sichuan peppercorn, so I substituted crispy chili in oil. It turned out to be a fantastic replacement! The smell of the chili oil is strong and amazing, but the heat level isn’t anywhere as intense as you would suspect. I used this brand, which was easy to find. We use this a lot now that we discovered it. If you do happen to find ground Sichuan peppercorn, it will add more of a bite than this replacement.
Shaoxing Wine is a rice wine typically used in cooking. You can use any rice wine, but it will give a bit of a different flavor that specifically using Shaoxing Wine gives.
If you aren’t familiar with white pepper you may be asking yourself : “What’s the difference between black pepper and white pepper?”. It’s the same plant, the same berry, but a different process. White pepper is a fermented and peeled version of black pepper, which gives it a lighter and distinct flavor. It’s not the same as black pepper, so subbing it will yield a different result. I think having white pepper on hand is a good idea and works well with so many dishes, so it’s worth adding to your pantry.
Making the Tofummus
The tofummus is the base is flavored and whipped tofu which lends a cooling effect to the spicy meaty mapo topping. It’s a combination of the garlic confit, sesame oil, and salt, blended and blended until it’s almost whipped. Many Lee suggests using a stick bender with a tall vessel to get the right consistency.
I cut up the tofu into cubes to help the process along. The garlic confit I usually make ahead of time and use more cloves than in the original recipe.
Making the Tofu Meat
This is another step which I suggest making a bunch of and using during the week. There is so much you can do with tofu meat aka tofu crumbles.
To make the meaty crumbles, all you need to do is break apart a block of firm tofu with a fork and until it starts to crumble. Once the block is crumbled add it to a bowl and add 1 tbsp garlic powder, 1 tbsp onion powder, and 1 tbsp soy sauce with a small splash of olive oil and mix until well combined.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spread the tofu mix on the paper in an even layer. Bake at 300* F for 20 minutes. After baking for 20 minutes, use a wooden spoon to flip the pieces a bit and then bake again for another 5-8 minutes until it resembled meet crumbles.
I like various sizes of crumbles . The larger ones have a chewier texture while the smaller ones can be a bit crunchy, but will soften with simmering in the mapo sauce.
Plating Mapo Tofummus
To plate the mapo tofummus, you’ll start with a shallow bowl. Next, use the back of your spoon to spread the tofummus on the bottom. The next layer is the tofu you summered in the mapo sauce. As mentioned above, I like to sprinkle black rice on the top along with the recommended chives. I also like to sprinkle a little Gochugaru on top of everything.
From Mandy Lee's book, The Art Of Escapism Cooking, this is a vegan version of her Tofummus. This can be eaten as a dip or a main.
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 lb tofu
- 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 tsp sea salt
- 1 block of completed tofu grounds (see recipe in post)
- 1 tsp plus 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp potato or corn starch
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 tbsp doubanjiang
- 1 tsp mushroom powder
- 1/2 tsp minced fermented black beans
- 1/2 to 3/4 tsp gochugaru
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- 2 tsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorn plus more for dusting
- 1/8 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine or Sherry
- 1/4 cup vegan chicken stock
- 1 1/2 tsp apricot jam
- 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
- splash of rice vinegar
- finely diced scallions for serving
Place garlic and oil in pot over low heat, tilting the pot so the ingredients can gather in a small pool on the corner of the pot. Turn the garlic a few times until the exterior is golden brown. Remove from heat and add soy sauce and swirl around. Set aside.
Pat tofu dry. Add for food processor us use a stick bender and process until completely smooth. This will take 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic confit sauce, sesame oil and salt and process again until all is incorporated.
Place in fridge and let cool while you continue to cook, for about an hour.
In a bowl mix together finished tofu crumbles, 1 tsp of the sesame oil and the potato or corn starch until well coasted.
In a small sauce pan heat the canola oil and remaining sesame oil over medium heat. Add the tofu crumble mixture to the sauce pan and brown evenly.
Add the doubanjiang, mushroom powder, fermented black beans (or miso), and gochugaru and cook, stirring often for 1-2 minutes until the gochugaru turns a dark maroon color.
Add the garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns and cumin for about 1 minutes. Add wine and scrape any carmilzation that is sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook until the alcohol has evaoprated.
Add the stock, jam white pepper and vinegar, turn heat to low and simmer until liquid has reduced by half and slightly thickened.
Plate and serve according to directions in post.
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