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Recipe  •  15 November 2023


Mapo Tofu Curry

I came up with this recipe while creating themed curries based on the gyms in Pokemon Sword and Shield . . . this one was for the Fighting-type gym.

This recipe is one of my favourites. I often find vegan mapo tofu underwhelming because it lacks the balancing richness and fat that come from using ground pork. So here I make an onion-based curry that calls on the Szechuan mapo tofu spices (chili flakes, tingly peppercorns, fragrant chili oil) in combination with curry powder.

I find that the depth of an onion-based curry provides the richness that I missed in mapo tofu with meat. This recipe is a plant-based version with substance that I hope is worthy of the title. When you ‘veganize’ a dish, you can’t simply remove the parts that keep it from being vegan; you always have to give something back to the recipe. Everything is there for a reason, especially in classic recipes.

Serves 4


  • 5 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons Szechuan chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin-Based Five-Spice Powder (page 60) or garam masala
  • 2 cups Superior Stock (page 38), homemade or store-bought chicken stock, or Vegan Broth (page 37)
  • ½ (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons doubanjiang
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 2 blocks (12 to 14 ounces each) extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon Fragrant Chili Oil (page 45)
  • Kosher salt
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • Steamed rice, for serving


  1. Preseason your wok (see page 29), add 2 tablespoons of oil, and heat over medium.
  2. Add the Szechuan chili flakes and Szechuan peppercorns and toast until fragrant and fried, stirring often, about 2 to 3 minutes (they will have a darker appearance once toasted—but they shouldn’t be blackened/burned). Use a slotted spoon to remove the chili flakes and peppercorns from the wok and transfer to a cutting board and crush with a knife or use a mortar and pestle to grind into a crispy powder. If you have a mezzaluna, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for – use it. A small food processor will also work or even a spice grinder (use one with a washable bowl, you won’t get this flavour out of a coffee grinder).
  3. Set the powder aside and return the wok to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and the onions, stirring often until they become translucent, about 8 minutes, then add in the curry powder and the five-spice and stir-fry until fragrant, about 1 minute. Mix in half of the stock and then transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth (about 2 minutes on medium speed for a high-speed blender).
  4. Clean, dry, and preseason your wok again. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the wok at medium heat along with the tomato paste and doubanjiang and fry, stirring often, until the paste becomes uniform and smooth, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in the rest of the stock to loosen the paste from the pan, then add the blended curry mixture. Bring to a simmer before turning the heat down to medium-low and add the vinegar, soy sauce, and tofu.
  6. Allow to gently simmer for 10 minutes before topping with fragrant chili oil and crispy chili powder to taste. Season with salt and serve garnished with cilantro and over rice.

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