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Recipe: Vegan Mapo Tofu

Photo: by Nikki To (courtesy Hardie Grant Books)

This spicy tofu dish was one of my favourites when I was living in China. Although it is mostly made with mince pork, a tiny street food vendor on my block served a meat-free version and I would pick up a bowl with some steaming white rice every week. No doubt it built up my tolerance for very spicy food.

Although mapo tofu is a Chinese dish, originating in Sichuan in the 1800s— a province famous for its chilli dishes— I managed to find one or two places that serve a meat-free versions in Hong Kong. Of course, I just had to try making my own vegan version at home to sate my cravings. Luckily, I happened across a recipe from Melbourne vegan queen Shannon Martinez, who owns the iconic Smith & Daughters vegan restaurant.

Her version brings that necessary sizzling hot quality, texture and plenty of taste. This recipe replaces the pork with plant based meat — I prefer to throw in textured rehydrated soy protein— and adds black fungus, and a home made Sichuan Chilli oil that gives it bite. This definitely hits the spot if you're craving a spicy dish.

Recipe from Vegan With Bite. Buy book here.



  • 500g block of silken tofu- cut into 2cm cubes

  • 200g plant based mince or rehydrated soy protein

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 25g black fungus or dried mushrooms, soaked, sliced

  • 3 spring onions, sliced, green and white parts separated

  • 6cm piece of ginger, peeled, very thinly sliced into matchsticks

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground up

  • 1 tbsp douchi (fermented black bean paste)

  • 2 tbsp doubanjiang (spicy fermented broad bean paste)

  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • 600ml veggie or vegan chicken stock

  • 2 tbsp corn starch (cornflour)

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil

  • 1 handful chopped coriander leaves

  • 3 tbsp Sichuan chilli oil (recipe below)

Sichuan chilli oil

Makes approx. 750 ml (3 cups)

  • 60 g chilli flakes

  • 2 tbsp Korean chilli flakes (or just add an extra 2 tbsp normal chilli flakes)

  • 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground

  • 4 star anise

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

  • 50 g (⅓ cup) toasted sesame seeds

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds

  • 2 bay leaves, crushed

  • 625 ml (2½ cups) vegetable oil

  • 2 cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed


1. Drain tofu and cut into 2cm cubes. Place in a bowl with a pinch of salt and carefully cover with boiling water. Allow to stand.

2. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. Add plant based mince, breaking up any lumps with a spoon.  If adding dehydrated soy protein make sure to rehydrate in hot water for a few minutes and squeeze out excess water).

3. Add garlic, ginger and the white part of spring onions to wok. Stir-fry for about 1 min or until the ginger and garlic begin to turn slightly golden.

4. Add the black fungus or dried mushrooms. Toss to combine.

5. Add the doubanjiang and douchi and stir-fry for 30 secs, making sure everything is evenly coated, then add the shaoxing wine. Add the stock, soy sauce and Sichaun pepper, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer.

6. Drain the tofu, then very carefully slide it into the wok or pan (you don’t want burning oil splattering you). Gently stir to combine. Allow to simmer over low heat for 10 mins. 

7. Combine the corn flour with 4 tbsp water in a small bowl. Add the cornflour mixture to the wok or pan and stir to combine. Cook over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the coriander and Sichuan oil. Stir to combine.

8. Serve with steamed rice.



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