Mābōdōfu (麻婆豆腐) is the Japanese name for “Mapo Tofu”, which is a Chinese dish from Sichuan province. Tofu and ground meat are stir fried with a flavoursome sauce. But the flavour of Mābōdōfu is yet again modified to suit to the Japanese palette and not as spicy as the Chinese version of mapo tofu.
Mābōdōfu was introduced to Japanese households widely in the early 1970’s. The flavour was already modified to suit to Japanese people and the person who introduced mābōdōfu was Chen Kenmin who is the father of the Iron Chef Chen Kenichi.
It was almost 10 years ago, but there was an Iron Chef dinner show in Sydney. The show was not the cooking battle but two of the regular Iron Chefs came and cooked dishes on the stage with a bit of entertainment while the audience had wonderful meals.
At the time, the TV show Iron Chef was popular and I watched every episode. So, I had no hesitation in booking a table of four to experience great food with my children. When I told my children about it, they rolled their eyes. They could not believe how much I paid for it. It was expensive.
I guess they never thought I would follow TV celebrities. To tell you the truth, I felt the same and I was surprised by my eagerness to book this event. But I was really keen to get my kids to experience something special, just to show my appreciation for their support of their working mother.
We had a wonderful time there. Hiroyuki Sakai (French chef) and Chen Kenichi even came down to the dining tables to say hello. I got photos taken with them. At the end of the show, I couldn’t resist buying two cookbooks signed by each of them.
The sauce of my Mābōdōfu is made of miso, soy sauce, sugar, chilli bean paste and soup stock, unlike Chen Kenichi’s mābōdōfu recipe in his cookbook, which uses fermented black beans instead of miso, chilli oil and few other Chinese spices. Because I use miso instead of fermented black beans, the colour of my Mābōdōfu is not as dark brown as Chen Kenichi’s. Also, my Mābōdōfu is not as oily compared to other mapo tofu recipes.
You need to use chilli in mābōdōfu and I use a chilli bean paste called “doubanjiang” (豆板醤) which is widely used in Sichuan cuisine. In addition to this, I add a small amount of finely sliced dried chilli to give a bit of kick. You can buy doubanjiang at Asian grocery stores.
My younger daughter does not handle spicy food very well. She couldn’t eat mābōdōfu with chilli in it at all even when she was a teenager. When the rest of the family members felt a tiny amount of chilli in the dish, she found it too hot and could not eat the dish. Even now, she sometimes tries one mouthful of a dish and says, “too hot” when we go to an Asian restaurant and order spicy dishes.
So, I had to change the cooking sequence of my Mābōdōfu and add the chilli at the very end. Instead of adding all the sauce ingredients to the wok, I made Mābōdōfu without chilli bean paste & chilli, saved some for my younger daughter, then added the chilli to it for the rest of the family. But these days, I don’t need to do this trick any more. She is getting slightly better at spicy food.
I always eat Mābōdōfu with boiled rice. Perhaps because of the strong flavour, I can eat a lot of rice with it even if I should be reducing my carb intake. Being Japanese and being fond of rice, it’s a tough request for me.
Mābōdōfu is quite simple to make just like many Chinese stir fries. Cut the ingredients, mix the sauce, stir fry and add the sauce. That’s about it. I hope you try Japanese version of Mābōdōfu.
Mābōdōfu is the Japanese name for Mapo Tofu which is a Chinese dish from Sichuan province. Tofu and ground meat are stir fried with flavoursome sauce. But the flavour of Mābōdōfu is yet again modified to suit to Japanese palette and not as spicy as the Chinese version of mapo tofu.
It is quite simple to make just like many Chinese stir fries. Cut the ingredients, mix the sauce, stir fry and add the sauce.
- 275 g (9.7oz) firm tofu cut into 2cm (¾”) cubes (note 1)
- 200 g (7.1oz) pork mince (ground pork) (note 2)
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sake
- Salt & pepper
- 2 tsp clove of garlic finely minced
- 2 tsp finely minced ginger
- 1 cup finely chopped shallots (scallions)
- 1 dried small chilli finely sliced (note 3)
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- 150 ml (5.1oz) stock (beef or chicken)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp miso
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp chilli bean paste (note 4)
- 1 tbsp cornflour/corn starch diluted in 1 tbsp water
- 1 tbsp chopped shallots (scallions)
Mix all of the Sauce ingredients except corn flour in a bowl ensuring that miso is completely dissolved with no lumps.
Heat a wok or a deep fry pan over high heat. When smoke starts rising up, add oil, then add pork mince. Stir-fry the mince, breaking up the lumps until the meat is cooked through (about 2 minutes).
Add 1 teaspoon each of soy sauce and sake, a pinch of salt and pepper to the mince and stir.
Reduce heat to low. Add garlic, ginger shallots and chilli, then stir for 30 seconds.
Add the sauce mix and increase the heat to bring it to a boil. Add tofu and cook until it starts boiling again.
Reduce the heat to medium, add cornflour and mix well but gently to maintain consistency of the thickened sauce.
When the sauce is thickened, add sesame oil and mix, then turn the heat off.
Serve immediately with chopped shallots sprinkled on top if using.
1. When stir-frying tofu, you should use firm tofu which is called momen dofu (木綿豆腐) in Japanese. Silken tofu is too fragile for stir-fry. It will crumble while mixing the ingredients.
Hard tofu can also be used but I find that the texture of the hard tofu is too hard.
2. I used pork mince (ground pork) in this recipe but you could also use beef instead of pork.
3. You can adjust the amount of chilli depending on your preference.
4. Chilli bean paste is called doubanjiang or toban-djan (豆板醤). You can buy a bottle of doubanjian at Asian grocery stores.
If you like spicy food, you can increase the amount of chilli bean paste.