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10 Vegetarian Asian Recipes with Tea Pairings

10 Vegetarian Asian Recipes with Tea Pairings

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Our commitment to the vegetarian movement

At Dachi Tea Company we believe passionately in the need to show respect to our natural environment. Taking the conscious decision to reduce our consumption of meat and fish is an expression of this principle; the desire to pay due service to the planet which nurtures and sustains us. With the huge expansion of the human population, our natural world cannot sustain our desire to raise animals and fish the oceans at the current rate of demand. Therefore, in homage to the Asian cuisine which is so dear to our hearts, we have curated this series of vegetarian recipes, to demonstrate that food can be simultaneously healthy, delicious, and good for our natural environment, without the need to resort to animal-based products.

Unlike their baijiu and beer guzzling neighbors over in the mainland, the Taiwanese are not heavy drinkers, preferring to sip on a cup of tea over their meal. This has the marvellous effect of cleansing the palette, meaning you can appreciate the full taste of the abundant number of dishes that will inevitably be sprawling across the table if you’re eating with Taiwanese friends. That is why we have carefully selected a tea pairing from our collection which will complement each recipe, just as a fine wine can amplify the subtler flavours of a dish and take the dining experience to the next level.

Ingredients to invest in before you start

There are some key ingredients in Chinese cooking which the cuisine simply falls flat without. The good news is that many dishes hinge upon a small number of crucial flavors. If you invest in the following, you’ll easily be able to reproduce many Asian flavors in your own kitchen, and it will be far healthier than anything from a Chinese takeaway. So dive into your local Asian market and have a root around. You’ll be amazed at what you can create, and we’re pretty sure you won’t look twice at a Chinese takeaway menu again.

Sichuan Peppercorns

Peanut oil

Sesame oil

Chilli oil (or make your own with this homemade recipe)

Soy sauce (light)

Hoi Sin Sauce

Chinese black vinegar

Chinese rice vinegar

Shaoxing Rice Win

The Menu

Vegetarian Gongbao Jiding

Cold Sesame Noodles

Dry-Fried Green Beans

Tea Eggs

Vegetarian Dumplings

Dan Dan Noodles

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Eggs and Tomatoes

Stir-Fried Aubergine, Pepper and Potato

Vegetarian Mapo Doufu

Vegetarian Gongbao Jiding

This vegetarian version of the Sichuan classic is an absolute winner and packs a full punch of flavor by substituting chicken with sweet potatoes. This dish is highly popular across mainland China owing to its addictive combination of salty, spicy, sweet and sour flavors. What takes an average Gongbao Jiding to levels extending beyond culinary nirvana is getting the sauce to be perfectly caramelised and thick, evenly coating all of the ingredients with a dark gloss. If you can find Sichuan peppercorns in your local Asian market, then by all means use them, as the “numbing spice” (mala) works well with the kick of scorched chilli, cranking up the volume of the tangy savoury sauce.

Tea Pairing: We suggest a tea pairing of a dark roasted oolong such as an Iron Goddess AKA Tie Guan Yin with it’s sophisticated smokey and nutty notes to calm that peppery hit and compliment the natural sweetness of the potatoes.

Vegetarian Gongbao Jiding. Photo Credit: Appetite for China

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 pound sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes

2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil

8 to 10 dried red chillies

5 spring onions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp finely chopped or grated ginger

¼ cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts or cashews

Sauce

1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tsp hoisin sauce

2 tsp chilli oil, homemade or store-bought

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly ground in a pestle and mortar (optional)

Instructions

Prepare the sauce: In another bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, chilli oil, sugar and Sichuan pepper. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and set aside.

You may need to turn on your stove’s exhaust fan, because stir-frying dried chillies on high heat can get a little smoky. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and swirl to coat the base. Add the chillies and stir-fry for about 30 seconds, until the chillies have just begun to blacken and the oil is slightly fragrant. Add the sweet potatoes and stir-fry for 5 to 6 minutes, continuously stirring, until the outsides are golden brown.

By now the sweet potatoes should be golden brown on the outside, and the pan a little dry. Create a well in the middle of the pan and pour in the remaining 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. Add the spring onion whites, garlic, and ginger, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce and mix to coat the other ingredients. Allow the mixture to simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken. Stir in the peanuts or cashews and cook for another 1 minute. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle the spring onion greens on top, and serve.

Cold Sesame Noodles

This deceptively simple and quick recipe is packed full of moreish flavors and requires minimal cooking. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for around four days, so it’s a great healthy lunchtime dish as well. It’s sure to make your colleagues at work seethe with envy at your lunchbox, especially if you slurp it up loudly with chopsticks. You can use Chinese egg noodles, soba noodles, or even Italian linguine or spaghetti for this dish. Ensure that you julienne the cucumber and carrot with a sharp knife as finely as possible, so that the flavors infuse into the whole dish. Jazz up the flavors even more with some freshly chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime juice if you wish.

Tea Pairing: We recommend a Oriental Beauty oolong. This tea has a fruity complexity and a spicy finish, which complements the fragrant flavors of this dish perfectly.

Cold Sesame Noodles. Photo Credit: Appetite for China

Serves 4

Ingredients

12 ounces dried spaghetti or Chinese egg noodles

2 tbsp peanut oil

2 tsp minced garlic

2 tsp grated ginger

1 cucumber, peeled and julienned

2 carrot, peeled and julienned

2 tsp white sesame seeds

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

Sauce

3 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (or 3 tablespoons tahini with an extra teaspoon of sesame oil)

2 tbsp smooth peanut butter

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar

2 tsp chilli paste

2 tbsp sugar

½ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, lightly ground in a pestle and mortar (optional)

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook egg noodles or spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain immediately, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Toss with 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of peanut oil in a small pan over medium heat. Gently cook the minced garlic and grated ginger until just fragrant, about 30 to 40 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Prepare the sauce: In a medium bowl, combine the sesame paste, peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, chilli paste, sugar, and optional Sichuan pepper. Add 2 tablespoons of water and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cooked garlic and ginger.

Pour the sauce over the noodles, add the cucumbers and carrots, and toss. Transfer to large bowl or deep serving dish, sprinkle the sesame seeds and spring onions on top and serve.

Dry-fried Green Beans

This is another Sichuan dish which had become a typical favorite across China. It generally comes served with minced pork, but here the finely chopped shiitake mushroom sprinkled on top mimics the texture wonderfully and brings an extra smoky, earthy flavor to the dish. When dry frying the beans, make sure to allow enough time for the skins to go wrinkly and blister, as this is exactly what gives them their distinctive crispy, caramelized flavor. The key is to ensure the heat is turned up to full blast. If you can’t find fresh shiitake mushrooms, then soak dried shiitake mushrooms in freshly boiled water for at least 20 minutes and remove the tough stem.

Tea Pairing: The savory profile of this dish will leave you craving something sweet; try a Frozen Summit AKA Dong Ding oolong which is known for its natural sweetness with notes of butterscotch and granola but all the while still remaining true to its oolong characteristics.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Dry Fried Green Beans. Photo Credit: Appetite for China

3/4 pound green beans

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil

5 or 6 dried red chilies

1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground

1 tbsp minced garlic

2 tsp minced or grated fresh ginger

3 spring onions, white parts only, thinly sliced

4 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

Sauce

2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

2 tsp chilli bean sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste

Instructions

Rinse the green beans and dry them thoroughly; even a small amount of water will cause oil in the wok to spit.

Prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, stir together the rice wine, chili bean sauce, sesame oil, sugar, and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat until a bead of water sizzles and evaporates on contact. Add the peanut oil and swirl to coat the bottom. Add the green beans and stir-fry, keeping the beans constantly moving, for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the outsides begin to blister and the beans are wilted. Turn off the heat, remove the green beans, and set aside to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil and reheat the wok. Add the chilies, Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger and spring onions, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for another 1 minute, until the mushrooms have browned and started to crisp. Add the sauce. Return the green beans to the wok and stir-fry for another 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and serve hot.

Tea Eggs. Phot Credit: O’Sullivans Abroad

Tea Eggs

Tea eggs can be found everywhere in China and Taiwan. 7-Elevens and Family Mart always have a rice cooker filled with tea eggs bubbling away and ready to go, wafting a Chinese five-spice fragrance through the streets. The smoky and salty umami flavor is delicious, and tea eggs are great as part of your breakfast, a light snack, or chopped onto a rice or noodle dish for some extra protein. Tea eggs are very simple – just leave them to simmer for a couple of hours to get the full depth of flavor penetrating underneath the shells. You’ll know if you’ve done it right when you peel off the shell to reveal a brown marbled effect on this surface of the egg white which penetrates into the skin.

Tea Pairing: With just a touch of earthiness, the sweet and sophisticated flavors of Taiwan’s special black tea (or hong cha, as the locals say) made using high mountain oolong leaves are a great match for this dish.

Ingredients

Eggs, as many or few as you like (they will last up to 4 days in the fridge)

Two bags of black tea

½ cup soy sauce

1 tbsp light brown sugar

2 pieces star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp black peppercorns

Instructions

Fill a pot with enough water to cover the eggs and bring to the boil. Simmer the eggs for ten minutes until hard-boiled, and then remove with a strainer.

Run the eggs under cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Lightly tap the eggs with the end of a knife to crack the shells evenly all the way around, being careful not to take the shell off. Return the eggs to the pot.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot of water, and top up the water until it covers the eggs by an inch. Set the water to simmer and leave for 1 to 2 hours or longer.

Once finished, drain the eggs and peel them. You can serve them immediately or keep them in the refrigerator in a tightly covered container.

Vegetarian Dumplings. Photo Credit: Eat Sleep Drink Magazine

Vegetarian Dumplings

The ultimate Chinese food, dumplings are the go-to dish in Northern China, especially when doused in lashings of vinegary sauce. Nothing warms the cockles quite like a plate full of dumplings on a cold day. This hearty vegetarian alternative is just as satisfying as the usual pork or prawn filled varieties. Dumplings are a labor of love and craftsmanship, but once you have got the technique down it’s a lot of fun. You can even make a big batch and freeze some for another day. As a rule of thumb an average portion is about ten dumplings per serving, but after all the work you have put in don’t feel the need to restrain yourself! The cheat’s method is to buy ready-made dumpling skins from a Chinese supermarket but preparing the dough yourself means your dumplings will be much more tender and fresh tasting. If you want some tips on folding the dumpling skins to get that beautiful shape, then check out this helpful video on YouTube.

Tea Pairing: Balance out the saltiness of this savory dish with a lightly oxidised Jinxuan oolong. With slightly vegetal notes and a milky sweet fragrance, this tea is sure to compliment the richness of these tasty snacks.

Makes 30 dumplings (feeds approx.3)

Ingredients

Dumpling Wrappers

1 cup plain flour (all purpose)

*Boiled water (approx. 2/3-1 cup)

Filling

1/2 cup finely diced carrot

1 cup finely diced tofu

1/4 ounce fresh shiitake mushrooms finely chopped

1 cup finely diced cabbage

2 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced spring onion whites

1/2 tsp sugar

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp white pepper powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp corn starch

Dipping Sauce

1 tsp ginger, grated

1 tsp sesame oil

4 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp rice vinegar

1 spring onion, sliced

Instructions

Boil the kettle. Place the flour in a mixing bowl and pour a small amount of water, approximately 2/3 cup into the mixture and stir with a fork until it resembles dough. Knead a few times to create a smooth finish. If the dough feels a little sticky, add a small amount of flour to the dough and mix. If the dough feels dry, add a little water (just a little, you can’t go back once you add too much). Once you are happy with the dough and it is silky and firm, wrap it in cling film and leave it to rest in the fridge for an hour.

Whilst the dough is in the fridge, you can start making the filling. In a separate bowl combine the carrots, tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, garlic, spring onions, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, white pepper, salt and corn starch in a large bowl and mix well. The key is to make sure all the ingredients are very finely chopped. If you like you can make the filling ahead of time to allow the flavors to marinate for a couple of hours.

Next you can begin wrapping the dumplings. Clear a large work surface and have a little flour handy for rolling. Remove the dumpling dough from the fridge and roll into a long thin tube with a diameter of about 1 inch. Cut the tube in half, and then cut the dough into evenly sized pieces. You want approximately 30 disks.

Prepare a small bowl of cold water. Squish each disk with the palm of your hand with a little flour and roll out the dumpling wrapper into a thin circle, working from the outside of the circle to the middle. The wrapper should be approximately 3 inches in diameter. Add about a teaspoon of filling to the middle of the dumpling. Dip one finger in the water and wet half of the outer edges of the dumpling. Fold the wrapper in half and pinch the center together. Beginning from the center start pleating each side. Make 2 to 3 pleats on each side of the dumpling, pinching tightly shut.

Place your dumplings on a sheet of baking paper. Continue until you have used all the dumpling wrappers.

The easiest way to cook dumplings is to bring a large saucepan of salty water to the boil, and delicately place each dumpling in the water. When they have floated for a few minutes on the surface and the skin has turned a milky translucent color, remove them dumplings from the water.

An alternative is to steam the dumplings in a bamboo steamer, or pan fry them until golden brown on the bottom, then add water and steam briefly with the lid on.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce by combining the grated ginger, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and spring onions in a small bowl. Serve immediately alongside the sauce, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles. Photo Credit: Viet World Kitchen

Dan Dan Noodles

Brilliant, fresh comfort food, this noodle dish is packed with salty and spicy flavors, made all the more delicious by sesame and peanut sauce. This is a milder version of the recipe without a spicy broth for those less accustomed to the sweat-inducing heat which Sichuanese people can bear. If you can find Sichuan preserved vegetables (zhacai) in your local store they add a sharp vinegar kick and chewy texture to this dish, otherwise just leave them out.

Tea Pairing: To boost the earthy rich flavors of these noodles and calm the fiery kick of chilli with a touch of sweetness, we recommend a tea pairing with a medium roasted oolong that is a little sweet but still has that minerality to compete. A Dong Ding oolong should do the trick.

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 dried shiitake mushrooms (soaked in hot water for 20 minutes)

8 ounces smoked tofu, crumbled

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground

2 tbsp soy sauce

1½ tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp Chinese sesame paste (or 1½ tbsp tahini mixed with ½ tbsp sesame oil)

2 tbsp Chinese black rice vinegar

2 tbsp chilli oil

1½ tbsp peanut oil

3-4 dried chillies

2 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp grated ginger

2 tbsp Sichuan preserved vegetables, finely chopped

8 ounces  of Chinese egg noodles

1 handful dry-roasted peanuts, finely chopped.

1 spring onion, finely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Chop up the soaked shiitake mushrooms, and mix in a bowl with the crumbled tofu, 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and ½ teaspoon of dark soy sauce.

In a large wok, toast the Sichuan peppercorns over a medium heat until they are fragrant and slightly smoking. Set them aside to cool and then pound them with a pestle and mortar.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain and wash with water to remove excess starch. To make the sauce, combine half the Sichuan peppercorn with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce, the sesame paste, rice vinegar, chilli oil and a pinch of salt. Stir this well and then add to the noodles.

Heat the peanut oil in a wok over a medium heat. Add the dried chillies and remaining Sichuan peppercorn, and stir-fry for 15 seconds until fragrant. Next add the garlic and ginger, and fry for 30 seconds. Add the mushroom and tofu mixture, and the Sichuan preserved vegetables. Cook for 2 minutes until hot, then set aside.

Divide the noodles between bowls. Top with the stir-fried mushroom and tofu, and some freshly chopped spring onion and the peanuts. Serve immediately.

Salt and Pepper Tofu

Deep frying tofu gives it a gorgeous crispy texture on the outside while maintaining the soft tender texture inside.  You can serve this as part of a larger meal alongside other vegetable dishes, or as the appetizer to the main meal for hungry guests. It’s light, simple and delicious. Just make sure you find the right silky-textured soft tofu, and be gentle with it when chopping and frying so as not to crumble it into smaller pieces.

Tea Pairing: We believe that lightly oxidized oolongs such as a High Mountain or Baozhong with delicately sweet and floral profiles would be great accompaniments to this dish because of it’s subtle characteristics.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Salt and Pepper Tofu. Photo Credit: Veggie Belly

Ingredients

Sauté

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 leek, carefully washed and finely chopped

1 stick of celery, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tbsp minced ginger

1 tbsp light soy sauce

½ tsp brown sugar

Tofu

1 block extra firm tofu (14 ounces)

4 tbsp corn starch

½ tsp cracked black pepper

Salt

Lots of vegetable oil for frying

1 spring onion, finely chopped

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the sesame oil at a high heat. Stir-fry the finely chopped leeks, celery and green pepper for about 2 minutes, then add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Add the soy sauce and sugar, and cook for 30 seconds, then set aside.

Pat dry the drained tofu and cut it into 1 inch cubes. Place these in a large bowl and cover with the corn starch, salt and pepper. Gently toss the contents of the bowl until the tofu is coated in corn flour.

In a large skillet, pour in oil until it is ½ inch deep and heat. Check the oil is very hot before adding the tofu cubes a few at a time. Gently flip them around so that they become crispy on all sides, and turn a golden brown color, then remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a plate covered with paper towels. Repeat until all the tofu is cooked.

Quickly reheat the sauteed leeks, celery and bell pepper, and then gently toss in the tofu. Serve on a large dish with freshly chopped spring onion to garnish.

Eggs and Tomatoes

This humble home-style dish can be found across China, and does not really vary from region to region. It is a dish that calls for no elaboration, and unlike more poetically named dishes, its name (xihongshijidan) literally means eggs stir-fried with tomatoes. Eggs and tomatoes is an easy accompaniment to pretty much anything; an unassuming and comfortingly satisfying filler. This is one of the first dishes I ate in China, and holds a similar nostalgia for many as a simple homely breakfast or lunch. The trick is getting the knack of cooking the eggs in that perfect combination of fluffy and lightly golden crispy. Just make sure your oil is very hot before you add the eggs and let them cook through for at least a minute before scrambling them. If you do want to get fancy with this dish however, add a dash of Shaoxing rice wine and a small teaspoon of corn flour mixed with water into the beaten eggs before scrambling. You may even take the heinously unorthodox route and add a small amount of tomato ketchup to the cooked tomatoes for extra sweetness.

Tea Pairing: Bold yet balanced, we’re going to go off script a little here and suggest a deep and rich Sun Moon Lake black tea, which will provide a pleasant base for this dish’s sweet profile.

Serves 2

Eggs and Tomatoes. Photo Credit: 3 Hungry Tummies

Ingredients

5 to 6 large free-range eggs

1 tbsp oil (vegetable or sesame)

1 spring onion, chopped

3 medium-sized tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges

1 tsp sugar

Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

Beat the eggs in a bowl, add half a teaspoon of salt, and season with pepper.

Heat a wok over a high heat until a drop of water evaporates on contact with the surface. Add the cooking oil and coat the base. Pour in the eggs and cook for one minute until a thin layer starts to form on the bottom, then scramble until they are cooked but light and fluffy. Season with salt and pepper, then serve onto a plate and set aside.

Wipe out the wok, and stir-fry the spring onion for 20 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until slightly softened, then sprinkle with the sugar and another dash of salt.

Return the eggs to the pan and quickly heat through, stirring until they are mixed nicely with the tomatoes. Serve on a plate.

Stir-Fried Aubergines, Peppers and Potato

The Chinese name for this dish (disanxian) literally translates as Earth Three Fresh which lovingly describes this rustic rural recipe from the cold climes of North-Eastern China. For a long time it has baffled me as to exactly what witchcraft goes into making the humble potato taste so delicious, and many a time I suspected it was simply down to vast quantities of MSG – Chinese chefs can be extremely liberal with this cancerous chemical in the kitchen. Nevertheless, I think this recipe comes close to recreating that addictively moreish sweet and salty flavor, and cutting the vegetables into thin slices as recommended below reduces both the cooking time and the amount of oil required. Don’t be tempted to skip the step and fry the potatoes and aubergines at the same time though, as you won’t get the right texture. For extra authenticity points, try to find the aubergine that has a long and thin shape, as opposed to the typically plump pear-shaped aubergines found in Western markets.

Tea Pairing: We think that the gently floral notes of a lightly oxidised High Mountain oolong will freshen up your palate during this savory treat.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine

2 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

2 tsbp water

1 tsp corn flour

Vegetable oil

1 large potato, halved and cut into 3 mm thick slices

1 aubergine, halved and cut into 7-8 mm thick slices

1 green pepper, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Stir Fried Aubergine Pepper and Potato

Instructions

Make the sauce by mixing the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, salt, water and corn flour in a small bowl.

Place some pieces of kitchen roll on top of a plate for draining off oil. Heat a large wok or skillet on a medium heat, and add enough oil to liberally cover the bottom of the pan a few millimeters deep. Fry the potatoes until they are a crispy golden-brown on both sides, then place on the kitchen roll to absorb any excess oil.

Add oil to the wok again and fry the aubergine until golden-brown, then place with the fried potatoes.

Pour any excess oil from the pan, leaving only a tablespoon of oil remaining, and heat on a medium heat. Add the spring onion and garlic, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Then add the green pepper and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds. Add the eggplant, potato and sauce into the wok until warmed through. Place onto a plate and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Mapo Doufu

This is another much-loved dish which is served in restaurants across China, revered for its incorporation of the seven flavor characteristics of numbing spice, spicy, hot, fresh, tender, aromatic and crispy. Mapo Doufu is traditionally made with a dash of pork mince, but the combination of mushrooms and black beans used here more than compensates in terms of texture and taste. If you want to mix things up even more, you can use a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms, including wood ear (mu’er) and porcini mushrooms.

Tea Pairing: This dish is packed full of strong flavors, so we recommend a tea with a similar legacy; an Iron Goddess oolong with its roasted smooth profile will help accentuate all the characteristics of this dish that you love.

Serves 4

Ingredients

12 – 14 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes

1 cup warm water

1 ½  tbsp fermented black beans (or black bean sauce)

2 tbsp peanut oil

3 spring onions

2 whole dried Chinese chillies

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tsp ginger, grated

1 block soft or medium firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 tbsp cornflour dissolved in 2 tbsp water

Sauce

2 ½ tbsp. chilli bean paste

1 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp sugar

½ tbsp Sichuan peppercorns, ground

Instructions

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes, squeeze out the excess water and keep the mushroom flavored water for use later. Chop off the stems and finely chop the caps.

Mix the sauce ingredients together in a bowl, including the mushroom water, chilli bean paste, rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Rinse the black beans and mash them to a pulp with a spoon.

Heat a wok over a medium-high heat, add peanut oil and swirl it around to cover the base. Stir-fry the whole chillies and whole Sichuan peppercorns for 30 seconds to 1 minute, strain the resulting oil through a sieve and return this oil to the wok. Add the minced mushrooms and black beans, and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until the mushrooms are crispy and the black beans are fragrant. Turn down the heat to medium, then add the spring onion whites, garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant.

Pour in the sauce and bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently add the tofu, being careful not to move them around too much and break them. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until the tofu is cooked and has absorbed some of the sauce.

Gently push to tofu to the sides and create a well in the middle of the wok. Stir the corn starch paste into the center; allow it to simmer for another minute until the sauce has thickened. Transfer to a wide bowl, sprinkle the green spring onion on top and serve.

Mapo Doufu. Photo Credit: Serious Eats

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