veggie mapo

I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for my vegetarian and vegan readers–who impressively continue to read despite my love for all things porcine–so I wanted to post a little something meatless to start the week off. Lemur friend the Geek Goddess gave me Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice as an un-birthday present (because she is the kind of awesome friend who knows you are stressed out and responds with cookbooks!) and it has a brilliant range of vegetable dishes from Sichuan province and beyond. I particularly loved her simple meatless version of ma po tofu: meat works more as a flavouring than as a main component of the dish in its traditional form, so it is actually relatively easy to replace the meat with other umami flavours. The real pleasure of ma po tofu for me is the contrast of soft, cooling tofu with the fiery, oily, tingling chili and Sichuan peppercorn sauce and this version focuses your attention on precisely that experience. I know there are people out there who are yet to be converted to tofu and I think this might be one of the dishes to do it. It’s making my mouth water just looking at the picture.

I think that ma po tofu needs something with a bit of bite to go alongside it, and Dunlop’s book has absolutely scads of vegetable recipes. I decided on runner beans with black bean and chili, largely because it contains fermented black beans, which are one of my storecupboard favourites. It also makes sense for the winter, when the range of vegetables is meagre and there is only so much cabbage a person can eat. I pass over runner beans oftentimes, because they can be fibrous and stringy, but recently I’ve started to see stringless runner beans at the grocery store and I have to say it makes all the difference.

So, no recipes this time, as I didn’t really change anything, just made Dunlop’s recipes straight. I strongly recommend the book, though, which is full of simple and delicious looking dishes. Hopefully, this will motivate me to make some more veggie awesomeness this week––time to go shop for soft tofu…

runner beans