Ma po tofu with wild mushrooms recipe

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Ma-Po was the wife of a Sichuan chef who created this dish over 150 years ago, and it’s widely written that the popularity of the dish is not least due to the affordability of tofu over meat. It was not uncommon for meat to be omitted or replaced with mushrooms and other fungi. Being a relatively simple dish of meaty substance, vegetarian versions have also been long favoured during the observance of zhai jie, the Buddhist practice of a vegan diet – which many meat eaters practise during Uposatha a bit like Sabbath days in Christianity and Judaism or Ramadan in Islam, where people may choose to intensify their practices and ethics.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 14 oz (400 g) block of medium-firm or silken tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 2 level teaspoons cornflour/cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1¼ oz (35 g) assorted dried wild mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes, then drained and chopped
  • 4½ oz (125 g) fresh oyster mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 5-cm/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black beans (or use 2 tablespoons black bean sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fermented chilli bean paste (or use fermented broad bean paste, slightly less spicy but easier to find)
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 4 tablespoons roasted chilli/chili oil (type with a dark red colour)
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½–1 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
  • 3 spring onions/scallions, thinly sliced at an angle
How to Make It
  1. Place a large dry wok on a high heat and heat until smoking. Add half the peppercorns and dry-toast for a few moments until lightly roasted, then transfer to a mortar and grind well. Set aside to use before serving.
  2. Add the remaining peppercorns to the pan along with the vegetable oil and sizzle on high for 1–2 minutes. Remove the peppercorns from the oil and discard. Add the tofu pieces into the spiced oil, and fry until crisped slightly, but take care not to break up the pieces. Better to toss the wok here rather than using tongs. Remove the tofu and set aside on a plate.
  3. Combine the cornflour/cornstarch with a little splash of water and mix to make a paste. Set aside.
  4. Add all the mushrooms and the sesame oil to the remaining oil in the wok, return to a high heat and cook for a minute. Once it starts smoking, add the garlic and ginger, and keep tossing on a high heat for another 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients, except the tofu and spring onions/scallions. Mix well and then add the cornflour/cornstarch paste, and cook for another minute until slightly thickened. The sauce should be a velvety pouring consistency. Add a little more water if the sauce is too thick. Taste and season with more salt according to taste. Gently fold in the tofu, half of the Sichuan pepper powder and half of the spring onions/scallions.
  5. To serve, scatter with the remaining spring onions/scallions and a few pinches of the remaining toasted Sichuan pepper and serve with steamed rice.

Comments are closed.