02 October 2014

Mapo Dofu with Asparagus! (Vegan)

1 package frozen asparagus (if in season, use fresh!)
6 dried whole shitake mushrooms
6 medium sized oyster mushrooms (about a half cup chopped)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp szechuan GREEN/brown peppercorns (not the red ones - they aren't as numbing)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsp black bean sauce*
1/2 package tofu (silken preferred)
green onions
hot white rice
crushed szechuan peppercorns
chili oil

Thaw asparagus, drain, and cut into 2-3 inch pieces.
Place dried shitakes in bowl, cover with boiling water. 
After shitakes have softened, removed from the water. Retain the water and chop the mushrooms finely.
In a wok, heat oil on med-high heat. When lightly smoking, add the dried shitakes. Stir constantly.
After 5 minutes or after shitakes have browned somewhat, add the fresh oyster mushrooms, and onions (& fresh asparagus if you have it). Stirfry until the onions are fragrant. Add the thawed asparagus and try to cook off some water. If you want the asparagus to be browned a little, you could try to stirfry them separately, but it will be harder with thawed asparagus than with fresh. Or you could broil them before adding!
Add the peppercorns and garlic. Cook for less than 1 minute.
Add the black bean sauce and 1/2 cup mushroom water, from soaking the shitakes. If you would like thicker sauce, sprinkle in corn or potato starch 1/2 tsp at a time, mixing in between additions. If you would like it saucier, you can add more mushroom water and starch. (I ended up adding all the mushroom soak water, or about 1.5 cups)
Turn heat to low. Add the tofu, just to heat it up. Don't stir too often or you may break the tofu.
Serve on white rice. Sprinkle green onions, crushed szechuan peppercorns, and chili oil on top.

*You replicate the flavor of the black bean sauce if you have fermented black soy beans on hand (also found at Asian grocers). Mash them up with some water, garlic, and ginger into a paste consistency. The fermented bean flavor is the most important aspect. You can also add dried or fresh chilis, or chili oil.

This recipe is based off of Kenji's Vegan Mapo Tofu recipe on Serious Eats! You can read about his take on it and get more tips if you need. I added asparagus and onions for more greenery and fiber! You could also try other asian-style vegetables like water chestnuts and bamboo shoots. Kenji's original recipe also includes a lot more mushrooms, which replicate the ground beef in authentic Mapo Tofu.

If you want to use fresh asparagus, go for it! Add it when you add the fresh mushrooms and onions so it has a greater chance to cook. The frozen asparagus are fairly mushy in comparison to fresh.

If you just love the flavor of the black bean sauce, peppercorns and chili oil like we do, you can really stirfry anything in it, right?! The silken tofu is great to contrast the textures and flavors, but other soft tofus can do.