Vegan Pumpkin Mapo Tofu

This recipe was adapted from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho, also the author of the Red Cook blog. I was in the mood for mapo tofu a few days ago, and made a vegan version substituting Chinese cabbage and shiitake mushrooms for pork or beef. The mushrooms have a deep umami, and paired with crumbled soft tofu, the recipe below made for a rich, savory, spicy stew. Towards the end I decided to add a little pumpkin (have to satisfy that Pumpkin Challenge) and surprisingly the pumpkin gave the stew the traditional thickness that I had planned to use corn starch to achieve. What followed was a delicious Sichuan inspired meal!

Serves 4 with grains.

Ingredients 

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • pinch salt
  • 1 head bok choi
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 2″ fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp Chinese or Korean chile flake
  • 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorn powder
  • 1 tbsp gochujang (Korean pepper paste)
  • 2 tbsp chunjang (Korean black bean paste)
  • 1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 3/4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 pound soft tofu
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • cilantro or green onion to top

Instructions

  • Prep the vegetables. Chop the bok choi into bite sized squares, mince the onion and ginger. Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl. Boil 3/4 cup water, then pour over the mushrooms. Chop cilantro or slice green onion for garnish and set aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or large cast iron Dutch oven until a drop of water sizzles when it touches the oil. Add the bok choi and a pinch of salt, and stir frequently until the bok choi is wilted and has lost most of its water. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  • Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and ginger and stir, frying until fragrant. Add the chile flake and Sichuan peppercorn powder, stir frying for 30 seconds, until the oil has turned red. Add the gochujang and chunjung and stir fry for 30 more seconds. In this step, you can also use fermented black beans in place of the bean paste, however these can be a bit harder to find.
  • Add the bok choi, cooking wine, soy sauce, tofu and pumpkin to the pot and stir together. Crumble the tofu as you stir.
  • Pour the mushroom soaking water into the pot, reserving the drained mushrooms. Slice the mushrooms and stir them into the pot.
  • Let simmer on medium low heat for about 5 minutes to let the flavors meld together, then serve over rice or with steamed buns, garnished with the fresh herbs.
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