Vegetarian Dan Dan Noodles

A versatile, spicy Szechuan dish that makes me drool. It’s originally made with pork, but I think my vegetarian version is just as good. The chili oil I used in this recipe was easily made in about 30 minutes, and most of that time was just the spices simmering in the oil. However, the lazier cook can substitute premade chili oil from the Asian store. This dish is typically served with sui mi ya cai, Chinese fermented vegetables. I can’t find any vegetarian versions of this at the Asian grocery (and I don’t really want to make my own), so I either skip this altogether or substitute my vegetarian Kimchi, but it really just depends on my mood. Not a dealbreaker.

Yield: 3-4 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sesame paste (tahini)
  • 2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tsp red wine
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns
  • 1 tsp chili oil (mine is super spicy, so a little goes a long way, but you can fiddle with this as you please)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sesame oil for sauteing the vegetables and tofu
  • 1 head of broccoli (broken into small chunks) or an equivalent amount of sliced bok choy
  • 4 servings cooked noodles
  • 2-3 cups of shiitake mushrooms or oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 block of tofu (diced) or an equivalent amount of tofu skin (I’m partial to tofu skin)
  • 1 sliced bell pepper or 2 sliced carrots (like matchsticks)
  • 1/4 cup chopped toasted peanuts
  • chopped green onions for garnish

Directions

  1. Mix the ingredients for the sauce – everything from the tahini to the minced garlic in a small bowl and set it aside.
  2. Prepare the vegetables and tofu- washing and chopping, etc.
  3. Saute the vegetables together in the sesame oil.
  4. Add the sauce to the pan, stir well.
  5. Adjust with any additional chili oil or soy sauce.
  6. Serve over the cooked noodles.
  7. Top with scallions and peanuts.
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Mapo Dofu (Mapo Tofu)

I’m in love. This is my favorite Chinese dish to make, hands down. Read on for a hearty and mildly spicy vegan-friendly dish (I hear adding bits of ground pork makes it carnivore-friendly, and you can increase the spiciness for all you spicy-hot lovers). This makes about four servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 block of tofu (I’ve tried it with sprouted, firm, medium, and soft tofu. It depends on the texture of tofu you prefer; I like lots of texture so I use the sprouted, extra firm variety)
  • 1 lb. finely chopped fresh mushrooms (I like to split it 50-50 between portabellas and shiitakes, but I’ve used only portabellas when the shiitakes were out of season. It’s just as good!)
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  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. minced ginger
  • 2-3 tbsp. peanut oil (can substitute olive oil or canola oil)
  • 1.5 tsp. fermented black beans (I know their name is weird, but they are salty little nuggets of delicious flavor.)

blackbean

  • 1 tbsp. chili bean sauce (do 2 tbsp. if you like it spicy)

chilibeansauce

  • 0.25 tsp. ground szechuan pepper (commonly called “prickly ash” at the Asian grocery, increase up to 1 tsp. for added spiciness)

pepper

  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. cold water
  • 4-5 thinly sliced green onions
  • cooked white rice (as much as you like)

Instructions:

  1. Make the rice. Let it cook while you’re making the rest of this dish.
  2. Dice the tofu block into small pieces. Set aside so it can drain.
  3. Saute the minced garlic and ginger in hot oil until they’re browned.
  4. Add the mushrooms. Saute until they’re fully cooked.
  5. Add chili bean sauce, black beans, optional red szechuan pepper flakes.  Stir-fry for about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the vegetable stock, soy sauce, and tofu. Do a taste test to see whether you’d like more spiciness (more pepper flakes) or saltiness (more soy sauce).
  7. Cover frying pan, turn heat down to low, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Add cornstarch to the desired thickness.
  9. Serve with the white rice, topped with the scallions.
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