Three Chili Mapo Tofu
A great mapo tofu has three key components: umami doubanjiang, glossy zingy chili oil, and flavorful tofu. With a slight twist, this recipe hits all three to make your mapo tofu from good to great.
Written by Doobydobap
Three Chili Mapo Tofu (Vegan)
My go-to Chinese take-out order is mapo tofu, especially when the weather gets colder. It's my comfort dish that's spicy, oily, and tingles in all the right ways on my tongue.
A great mapo tofu has three key components: umami doubanjiang, glossy zingy chili oil, and flavorful tofu. With a slight twist, this recipe hits all three to make your mapo tofu from good to great. It's an easy weeknight dinner recipe that's fast, delicious, and jam-packed with plant-based protein.
Three tips to make your mapo tofu even better
1) Blanching the tofu in salt water.
Blanching the tofu in salt water is crucial in making mapo tofu that's well flavored through and out. Tofu has a bad rep for being bland and not tasting like anything. Well, that's because it hasn't been prepared properly. Blanching the tofu in salt water flavors the tofu from within, but it also firms up the protein in tofu, giving it a more bouncy texture by drawing out moisture, thus enabling the tofu to soak up the sauce better when being simmered.
2) Incorporating different chili components
There are three chili-based ingredients in this recipe:
- The doubanjiang: chili is fermented with the bean paste giving it sweet heat.
- Chili oil: chili, along with different spices such as Szechuan peppercorns, is infused in the oil, giving it zing. Feel free to use pre-made chili oil and incorporate more Szechuan peppercorns if you like numbing spice mouth feel.
- Chili: uncooked fresh chili to brighten the dish. You can also use sambal, harissa, or even sriracha instead if you don't have any fresh chilis. The key is not to cook out the "fresher" flavor of chili too much.
These chili components bring different elements to the dish and layer the spice in sweet, spicy, and fresh ways. You can customize the different chili components depending on what you have available. The key is to incorporate the chilis in different cooking stages!
3) Toasting the doubanjiang
Cook out your doubanjiang like you would a tomato paste! By toasting the doubanjiang in oil, it will mellow out some of the astringent saltiness and bring out a sweeter mellow spice. Many recipes also opt to use sugar, but I chose to use caramelized onion for a more natural sweetness and thickness to the mapo tofu.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
- 1 whole firm tofu, cubed
- 1 onion, finely diced
- ¼ cup Chinese chives or green onions
- 3 tbsp salt for boiling water
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tsp ginger
- 2 cups mushroom broth or any other broth or water
- 2 tsp potato starch
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 4 tbsp doubanjang
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp chili oil (click here for my chili oil recipe )
- 1 tbsp fresh chili paste
- In a large pot, heat 1L water to blanch the tofu.
- Once the water starts to boil, add the salt.
- Gently drop the cubed tofu into the salt water.
- Blanch the tofu for 1-2 minutes.
- Drain the tofu and set aside in a separate bowl.
- Heat the pot to medium high. Add neutral oil and onion in.
- Caramelize the onions until translucent. Then, add the doubanjiang in. Cook out the doubanjiang like you would a tomato paste. This process helps bloom the paste and mellow the saltiness, bringing out the sweetness.
- Next, add the broth of your choice. Stir and let simmer.
- Once the liquid comes to a rolling simmer, add the tofu. Braise for 5 minutes.
- Add chili oil and fresh chili to taste. Grate garlic and ginger as well.
- Combine potato starch with 1 tbsp cold water. Mix to create a slurry. Slowly drizzle the slurry mixture into the mapo tofu.
- Add soy sauce to taste once the sauce has thickened and turned glossy. Turn the heat off, then add the chopped chives and mix.
- Serve over a bowl of fresh rice. Enjoy!
Hi, I’m Tina aka Doobydobap!
Food is my medium to tell stories and connect with people who share the same passion. My recipes are a culmination of my experiences. I hope you enjoy recreating them at home, and if you do, make sure to tag me on Instagram!
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