This vegan mapo tofu is absolutely savory, and addictive. The shiitake mushroom chili sauce adds the pungent, meaty tastes to this dish. With a bowl of fresh steamed rice, this bright red, hot and spicy dish will be gone in no time.
Bring 4½ cups of water and ¾ tablespoon kosher salt in a saucepan to a boil. Add tofu and cover the saucepan with lid. Bring the water to a boil again and then turn down to medium heat with gentle boiling. Approximately 4 minutes. Save the brine water for later.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a sauté pan over high heat. When the oil is hot, reduce heat to medium low and add ½ tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn. Stir continuously for 1 minute and let the flavor of the peppercorns become infused into the oil. Do not burn them, otherwise the dish will taste bitter.
Use a ladle to scoop out the peppercorns and discard them. Add paprika powder into the hot oil. Wait for 30 seconds.
Use a ladle to scoop out the boiled tofu and then add them to the hot oil with paprika powder. Gently stir for a few seconds. Add shiitake mushroom chili sauce and 11/3 cup of the brine water. Stir gently to combine. Cover the sauté pan with lid and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook under medium heat for approximately 3 minutes.
Add the cornstarch and water mixture. Stir gently to combine. Turn off heat. Add garlic, ginger, and green onion.
Transfer the cooked mapo tofu into a serving dish. Drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle Sichuan peppercorn powder and green onion on top. Serve with steamed rice.