Recipe slightly modified from: http://www.eatingwell.com
Sometimes I wonder just how many vegetarian conversions mushrooms have been responsible for. People may decide to omit meat from their diet for ethical or health reasons – But I know a friend who one day completely stopped eating meat, and what convinced him (yes, it was a guy, too) that he could live without meat for the rest of his life was mushroom cannelloni he ate that day.
I don’t plan to become a herbivore any time soon, but if any dish was to makes me seriously question whether I ever need to eat meat again or not, this would be it.
But of course, before mushrooms can take all the credits, there is a ma po factor. Ma po tofu is a Szechuan dish where tofu is cooked in spicy minced meat sauce, and although the original red hot greasy version was conceived in China, it has become very popular in Japan with toned-down variations. Turned out that the sauce is so versatile that Japanese moms now ma po EVERYTHING; Ma po tofu is probably still the most common, then we’ve got ma po noodle, ma po eggplants, ma po cabbage, ma po bean sprouts… The list goes on. I didn’t think of swapping the meat part, however, and I’m glad somebody did – because it is absolutely genius.
Lighter but still full of flavor and deeply satisfying, it is one of my go-to dishes when I get home late and starving, dying to eat something substantial without feeling heavy next morning. And as with ma po anything, every time I make it, it tastes home – which is also perfect for the comforting late night feast after a long day.
RECIPE (2 servings)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 2 portobello mushrooms, chopped
- 1 teaspoon~ chile-garlic sauce (original recipe calls for 1/2 tablespoon, feel free to add more for extra kick)
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 14-ounce package firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 1/2 8-ounce can water chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon water
- 2 teaspoons corn starch or potato starch
- 1/2~1 scallion, sliced
- Szeshuan pepper powder (optional)
- Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and chile-garlic sauce and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the mushroom liquid has evaporated. I also threw in a few shitake mushrooms and a couple of crimini mushrooms leftover that I found in refridgerator this time – when it comes to mushroom, mixing different kinds always makes it even better!
- Add broth, rice wine or dry sherry, brown sugar, tofu and water chestnuts and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally (be careful not to break tofu) while adjusting heat to maintain a gentle simmer for 10~15 minutes.
- Combine water and corn starch (or potato starch) in s small bowl. Drizzle the mixture into the sauce pan and simmer until the sauce is thikened, about 2 minutes. Garnish with sliced scallions and sprinkle Szechuan pepper, if using.
- Serve with rice and steamed or sauteed veggies. I often serve this with brown rice and simply cooked greens – like steamed broccoli or sauteed baby bock choy – for perfectly balanced flavor.