Not only is November, the month of MOvember and men’s health awareness, it also happens to be World Vegan month. How do these cross-over you ask?  The answer is well exhibited in this amazing recipe for the Sichuan delicacy, Ma Po Tofu.

This past year, our family turned up the focus on eating a more plant based diet. Not only this month, but throughout the year, we have been trying many new recipes and different ways to re-create past favourites without the use of animal products. For each one of our family members the reason for making this change is different. Since the birth of our son, we made the switch to a dairy free life due to a recurrent reaction he was getting. The positive pay off was that my wife and I both felt better avoiding dairy products as well. Decreasing animal products further was really not that difficult and the culinary creativity that has come as a result of doing so is quite rewarding.

 When I tried this recipe for Ma Po Tofu, I was really excited to share it. The chef, J. Kenji López-Alt  has such an interesting technique of combining dried mushrooms, fried mushrooms and the soaking water from the dry mushrooms for a rich flavour that helps you forget that this recipe is commonly made with ground pork. I have tried making Ma Po Tofu with meat replacements and found it to be too rubbery as well as lacking the umami flavour that would usually be provided by the fat from the ground pork. This also incorporates fungi and seaweed into a recipe that otherwise would not be there. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this technique chef.

Why would this be a recipe for Men’s health? I am glad you asked.

The combination of spices in this dish are great for vascular health. The vessels in the reproductive organs have slightly smaller diameter to those in the heart. So what is good for heart health is usually great for reproductive organ health. The pungency of this recipe is excellent for getting the blood moving. The peppercorns, garlic, chives and chili peppers are all high in anti-oxidants. Ginger, chili pepper and Sichuan peppercorn are beneficial for managing inflammation. Garlic and chives have both been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (which potentially would help offset the frying in oil method of this recipe).

Wishing you a warm and healthy month of November, rich in flavour, and inspiration.

Photo by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt