Garlic

Mapo Tofummus

October 15, 2021
4.5 Stars
Photo by Mandy Lee
Author Notes

Tofu is bland. Don’t let its supporters, including me, tell you otherwise. Flying solo, it carries a subtle but offbeat taste that comes from soy milk, which, depending on whether you grew up accustomed to it or not, could be either a very good or a very bad thing. Having said that, I love tofu, perhaps in the truest sense because I wholly embrace it for what it is, but also, more importantly, what it isn’t. Tofu is not about taste. Tofu is a texture thing.

Hard, medium, silken like panna cotta—think of tofu as a mere vessel, an empty field of impending dreams. It’s like Mars, if you will, in that any exciting thing about it has to be outsourced, like Matt Damon. This will open up a whole window of promise.

“Tofummus,” for example, is what happens when you turn the least popular end of the spectrum of tofu, the firm variety, into a silken, creamy, luscious bed of hummus-like substance that begs for company. In this case, its soul mate, if you know what I’m talking about.

This is mapo tofu, the quintessential icon of Sichuan cuisine, one of its most successful exports across the world, numbing with Sichuan peppercorns and fiery with fermented chile bean paste, turned into a dip (an overdue development, if you ask me). The tongue-stinging, blood-red chile oil and deeply savory pork bits are immediately cooled down by the silky-smooth touch of the puréed tofu, a most delicious reconciliation for the taste buds.
Mandy @ Lady and pups

Test Kitchen Notes

Recipe adapted with permission from The Art of Escapism Cooking: A Survival Story, with Intensely Good Flavors by Mandy Lee, published by William Morrow Cookbooks. © 2019 by Mandy Lee. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Mapo Tofummus
  • Prep time 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • makes 4 appetizer servings
Ingredients
  • Garlic Confit Sauce & Tofummus
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
  • 1 pound (450 grams) firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Mapo Sauce & Assembly
  • 3 ounces (90 grams) ground pork or beef
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon potato starch or cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon doubanjiang (Sichuan broad bean chile paste)
  • 1 teaspoon mushroom powder (dried ground shiitake mushrooms)
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely minced fermented black beans (or 1 teaspoon of the darkest miso you can find)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean chile flakes)
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns, plus more for dusting
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons apricot jam
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Splash rice vinegar
  • Finely diced scallions, for serving
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Garlic Confit Sauce & Tofummus
  2. Place the garlic and oil in a small pot over low heat, tilting the pot so the ingredients can gather into a small pool on a corner of the pot. Turn the garlic a few times until the exterior is golden brown. Remove from the heat and add the fish sauce, swirling it around. Set aside.
  3. Tofu is made from boiled soy milk, which makes it technically “cooked.” But if you’re not a fan of the taste of soy, boiling the tofu again will make it taste more well rounded (although this may also make the purée slightly grittier). If you decide to boil it, cut the tofu into chunks the size of large marshmallows and cook them in a saucepan of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well and let cool and continue draining on a clean towel in the fridge, then transfer to a food processor. If you’re not boiling it, simply pat the tofu dry with a clean towel and place it in a food processor. Run the processor for 1 to 2 minutes, until the tofu is smoothly puréed. Add the Garlic Confit Sauce, sesame oil, and salt and process again until incorporated. The tofummus should still be quite dull in flavor at this point. Let the tofummus sit in the fridge for at least 1 hour to become slightly cool.
  1. Mapo Sauce & Assembly
  2. In a small bowl, mix the ground pork (or beef) with 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil and the potato starch (or cornstarch) until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the canola oil and the remaining 1 tablespoon sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat, breaking it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon, and cook until evenly browned. Add the doubanjiang, mushroom powder, fermented black beans or dark miso, and gochugaru and cook, stirring often, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the gochugaru turns dark maroon in color. Add the garlic, ginger, Sichuan peppercorns, and cumin and cook until just fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the wine, scraping any caramelization that is sticking to the sides and bottom of the pan, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the stock, jam, white pepper, and vinegar, turn the heat to low, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half and is slightly thickened.
  3. Serve the tofummus covered in warmed mapo sauce, topped with finely diced scallions and more ground Sichuan peppercorns and gochugaru.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • khardy
    khardy
  • SeanmPierce
    SeanmPierce
  • SunnyDee99
    SunnyDee99
  • Nancy H.
    Nancy H.

5 Reviews

khardy November 18, 2021
I LOVE this recipe! I make a pot of rice to eat along side and it is the most fun eating experience. The first time I made the recipe, I got all the ingredients I needed at Hmart, no problem. Now that I have everything I need it is so easy/cheep to make! I just buy a package of tofu and defrost a bit of ground pork in my freezer and boom! The best dinner for several nights in a row. I also really recommend watching Mandy's video that walks through this recipe - she tells you about all the ingredients and what they bring to the mapo sauce and that was a really cool learning experience for me. If you love spice - you gotta make this!
 
SeanmPierce November 3, 2021
What should I use to scoop up this dip?
 
khardy November 18, 2021
I make a pot of white rice (or eat it with any leftover rice I have kicking around) and then have a little side dish with the rice. In the video of this recipe, Mandy also suggests bread or pita if you want to eat it like a hummus -- I am sure that would be great!
 
SunnyDee99 November 1, 2021
WOW!! I made this last night, it was amazing. I made it as a test run, and it passed. So it's going on the holiday cocktail party menu.
 
Nancy H. October 18, 2021
Awesome-looking recipe and love the head-note! What else is there to say, except:

MATT. DAMON.