This vegan take on the spicy and tingly Sichuan classic swaps out ground pork for blanched broccoli stems and florets. The green vegetable crumbles and soaks up chile oil surprisingly well, for a little bit of textural and visual contrast to pillowy cubes of silken tofu. All you need to make this into a complete dinner is a portion of steamed rice and a handful of scallion greens to scatter across the top.
- Bring a small (approximately 2-quart) pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath (only if you want your broccoli florets to stay super green; otherwise you can skip the ice bath).
- Lightly trim the base of the broccoli stalk, then cut the crown very close to the top so as to yield super tiny florets (approximately ½-inch pieces), breaking them apart lightly by hand if they are clustered together. Keep separate.
- With the remaining broccoli stalk, use a vegetable peeler and peel around the woody base to reveal a tender stalk. Roughly chop the entire stalk.
- Trim the ends of the shiitake mushrooms, leaving most of the stems intact.
- When the water is boiling, first cook the tiny florets for 2-3 minutes-they should still have a little bite. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon or strainer (saving the water to use again), shock in ice water, drain well, and lay out on a kitchen towel to finish drying. To the same pot, now add the chopped broccoli stems and shiitake mushrooms, and cook for 5-7 minutes until both are completely tender and they've made a little à-la-minute mushroom broth. Remove from the pot (once again saving the water), shock in ice water or run under water to cool, drain, cut off the shiitake stems that remain. Chop together the shiitake caps and broccoli stems into fine (¼-inch) pieces either by hand or by pulsing in a food processor.
- Ladle out and reserve ½ cup of the remaining broccoli-shiitake broth, then turn the heat down to low. Unmold and gently chop your tofu into ½-inch cubes, and add them to the pot, allowing them to simmer gently.
- Mix the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water and set aside. Combine the liquid aminos, Shaoxing wine, doubanjiang, and set aside.
- Have ready a heatproof measuring cup or bowl set with a fine mesh strainer. In a dry wok, toast 1-2 tablespoons of the Sichuan peppercorns, tossing constantly over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 1 minute, then remove from wok and coarsely grind. To the same wok over medium-high heat, add the neutral oil. Once hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns, stirring constantly to toast in the oil until the smell permeates the air, about 1 minute. Pour oil through your strainer to strain out peppercorns.
- Keeping the heat on medium-high, return the oil to the wok. Add the grated ginger and garlic and cook until aromatic and lightly golden, less than 1 minute. Add the white and light green parts of the scallions and stir fry for 10 seconds. Add the finely chopped broccoli and shiitake mixture (reserving the florets) and cook, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to dry out, 4-6 minutes.
- Add the diluted cornstarch, cooking wine mixture, the reserved ½ cup of broth, and ¼ cup of the chile oil. Carefully drain and add the tofu gently to keep it as intact as possible, along with the reserved broccoli florets. Nestle everything together in a few gentle stirs. Keep mixture cooking over medium-high heat, and stir lightly and occasionally. Cook vigorously for 3-5 minutes to bring all ingredients together, reduce the sauce, and allow the cornstarch to thicken and bind everything. Turn the heat off and let sit 1 minute for flavors to meld.
- The surface of the mapo should be red, slick, and teeming with tofu glaciers. Add the ground Sichuan peppercorns until the limit of your spice tolerance is surpassed. Serve with steamed rice, additional chile oil, and scallions.
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