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  • Writer's pictureYiannoulla Burness


Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Here is a simple yet flavourful rendition of a classic Chinese dish, Mapo Tofu. This vegan version celebrates the fusion of spices, textures and Unami. The spicy flavours are combined with the creaminess of tofu and a colourful mix of bell peppers making this a vibrant and nutritious meal.

EQUIPMENT: A wok or large flat fry pan


TOFU is the source of protein used in this dish. You will need semi soft firm tofu. Don't mistake this with silken tofu which is very soft and has a consistency of set custard. Silken tofu is not recommended as it will not keep its shape and will fall apart in the sauce.

SHIITAKE MUSHROOM is used to add flavour and texture to the dish. The mushrooms are rehydrated for at least 20 minutes. The soaking water is kept to add to the sauce. You may use fresh shiitake or oyster mushroom in place of the dry. The mushrooms complement the tofu's texture and absorb the rich flavours of the Mapo sauce.

BELL PEPPER OR CAPSICUM are stir fried to keep their crispness and are added for colour and texture you may leave out if you wish or swap with another firm vegetable such as carrot or zucchini, broccoli or sugar snap peas.

LA DOUBANJIAN is a fermented chilli broad bean paste with a rich spicy and salty flavour.


Try sriracha or chilli garlic paste, start with a small amount and taste as you go to control the spice level.

Harissa paste can provide a different flavour again, a good option if you want to add both heat and depth to the dish.

Soybean paste (hoisin sauce) while not as spicy as chilli bean paste, it adds a savoury and slightly sweet flavour to the dish.

Be mindful of the salt content in the substitutes and adjust other seasonings accordingly.

SICHUAN PEPPERCORN is used to give a numbing hot sensation. Add peppercorn to a dry pan and heat until it becomes fragrant. Remove from heat, cool and crush in a mortar and pestle or place in between sheets of baking paper and crush using a rolling pin. Remove the husk and use the powder.

DARK SOY SAUCE to enrich the sauce and strengthen the flavour


25g dried shiitake mushroom

200ml boiling water only if using dry mushroom

40g fresh shiitake or oyster mushroom in place of the dry

1 cup of vegetable broth only if using fresh mushroom

630g semi soft tofu

2 tablespoon light tasing oil

65g or 1/2 cup red capsicum (bell pepper) chopped

65g or 1/2 cup Green capsicum (bell pepper) chopped

15g or 1 heaped tablespoon minced fresh ginger

43g or 2 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic


2 tablespoon La Doubanjiang (chilli broad bean paste or see substitutes)

1 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1/2 -1 heaped teaspoon cayenne chilli powder

1 teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (use the powder from it)

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 -1 teaspoon rice vinegar (optional)

2 teaspoons cornflour plus 1 1/2 tablespoon water (thickener) *see note

NOTE: For a thickener you may use cornflour, potato starch or arrowroot


* Place dried shiitake mushrooms in a medium size bowl cover with 200 mls of boiling water cover with a plate and let it steep for at least 20 minutes or until rehydrated.

*Drain mushrooms and reserve the soak water. Remove the stalks and slice mushroom caps, set aside.

*Drain the tofu and dice into small cubes. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10 minutes,

*Heat the oil in a wok and stirfry the bell pepper/capsicum for a couple of minutes

*Add the minced ginger and garlic and saute' until aromatic

*Stir in chilli broad bean paste, cayenne pepper and Sichuan powder. Cook for 1-2 minutes until mixture becomes fragrant.

* Add sliced mushrooms, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and reserved mushroom water

*Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer, slowly add the cornstarch slurry while stirring continuously. Allow the sauce to thicken until it reaches your desired consistency. For a not so thick sauce add more water a little at time.

*Gently add the diced tofu to the sauce being careful not to break the cubes. Stir to coat the tofu with the flavourful sauce.

*Once the tofu is heated through and the sauce has thickened, remove the wok from the heat.

*Spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with finely chopped spring onion or scallions for freshness and added flavour.

Enjoy the aromatic and spicy goodness of Mapo Tofu served over a bed of steamed rice. Adjust the spice level according to your preference.

Enjoy the aromatic and spicy goodness of Mapo Tofu served over a bed of steamed rice. Adjust the spice level according to your preference.

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