Photo by Marie Viljoen
Provenance of Dish
Looking for new ways to use native American prickly ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) fruit, I developed a forager's version of mapo tofu, the Sichuanese dish closely associated with Sichuan pepper (various Asian species of Zanthoxylum). The woodsy intensity of black trumpets adds even more intensity to this one-skillet wonder.
3 Tablespoons avocado oil
1 Tablespoon fresh prickly ash fruit/Sichuan peppercorns (or 2 tsps dried Sichuan), crushed
4 dry red chiles
1 lb ground pork (or 2 lbs chopped fresh maitake/blewits/field mushrooms)
2 Tablespoons microplaned ginger
1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
2 Tablespoons Doubanjiang (spicy fermented fava bean paste)*
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 cups water or good broth
1 cup black trumpet mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated)
1 block (400-g /14-oz) silken tofu, cut into ½-inch-ish squares
* I use Pixian Doubanjiang Chili Paste
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons water
In a large skillet heat the oil with the prickly ash/Sichuan and chile over medium heat.
When it bubbles, increase heat to high and add the ground pork (or chopped mushrooms for a vegan verion) to the hot oil.
Sauté, breaking it up as it cooks.
Add the ginger, garlic and scallions.
Cook until the pork is beginning to sizzle (or the mushrooms are exuding their juice).
Add the bean paste and stir well.
Add the 5-spice powder, sugar and lemon juice and stir, cooking for a minute.
Add the water/broth and the black trumpet mushrooms.
Cook for 20 minutes at a serious simmer.
Taste for seasoning and adjust, if needed.
Add the cubed tofu and gently mix into the sauce.
Cook another minute.
If you’d like to thicken the sauce, mix the cornstarch and water into a smooth slurry.
Add the slurry to the skillet and stir in gently, cooking for another minute.
Serve, with spoons!