This recipe appears in:Ask The Food Lab: Can I Stir-Fry On An Electric Cooktop? Can I Make Vegan Mapo Tofu That's Better Than The Real Thing?
This is my favorite dish of all time, in a completely meat-free form. Using dried and fresh mushrooms adds complexity and texture to the fiery dish, making it every bit as good as—if not better than—the original.
Note: Kombu, shaoxing wine, broad bean chili paste, and chili oil can be found in most Asian markets. Sichuan peppercorns can be found in Asian specialty markets, spice markets, or online. Yacai is preserved mustard root. It can be found in many Chinese grocers either sold by the piece in bulk, or in cans. Unused portions of yacai can be stored in a sealed zipper-lock bag in the refrigerator for several months.
- 4 whole dried woodear mushrooms (about 1/6 ounce)
- 1/4 ounce dried morel or porcini mushrooms, or a mix
- 1 (2-inch) piece of kombu (optional, see note above)
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 6 ounces white button mushrooms, stems trimmed, quartered
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (see note above)
- 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons whole Sichuan peppercorns, divided (see note above)
- 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, one tablespoon left whole, the other toasted and ground in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle
- 2 whole dried chinese hot chilies
- 3 garlic cloves grated on a microplane grater
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated on a microplane grater
- 4 scallions, whites finely chopped, greens thinly sliced, reserved separately
- 12 chinese chives or regular chives cut into 1/2-inch segments
- 3 tablespoons minced yacai (Chinese preserved mustard root, see note above, optional)
- 2 tablespoons fermented chili broad bean paste (see note above)
- 2 tablespoons roasted chili oil (see note above)
- 1 1/2 pounds medium to firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Combine dried mushrooms and kombu (if using) in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and cover with water. Place a paper towel or kitchen towel directly on surface of water to keep mushrooms mostly submerged. Set aside for ten minutes to rehydrate.
Meanwhile, place button mushrooms in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped into rough 1/4-inch pieces, about 6 to 8 one-second pulses. Combine chopped button mushrooms and oil in the bottom of a large wok. Heat over high heat, stirring constantly, until mushrooms are shriveled and well browned, 6 to 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer set over a small saucepan. Transfer fried mushrooms to a medium bowl and return oil to wok.
When dried mushrooms are rehydrated, strain through a fine mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Discard kombu. Discard all but 3/4 cups soaking liquid. Add cornstarch, wine, and soy sauce to liquid. Transfer drained mushrooms to a cutting board. Remove and discard hard central stems from woodear mushrooms, then finely chope all the mushrooms. Add to bowl with fried mushrooms.
Add whole Sichuan peppercorns and both chilis to oil in wok and return to high heat. Cook until fragrant and peppercorns have stopped sputtering. Do not overcook, or they will burn. Immediately strain through a fine mesh strainer, discard peppercorns and chilies, and return oil to wok.
Heat oil over high heat until lightly smoking. Add garlic, ginger, scallion whites, chives, and yacai (if using). Stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chopped mushrooms and stir-fry to combine. Add fermented chili broad bean paste and stir until all the vegetables are well coated. Stir mushroom liquid mixture to incorporate cornstarch, then add to wok. Cook, storring constantly, until lightly thickened and reduced, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add tofu and carefully fold in, trying not to break it.
Cook until tofu is heated through. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle with chili oil, and top with scallions and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Serve immediately with white rice.