I have always thought mapo tofu looks delicious, but having been raised vegetarian, I’ve never craved for it as a meat version. When I saw pictures of mapo tofu with ground meat on top, my taste buds craved for a vegetarianized translation. Now that I think about it though, I may have already had a mapo tofu-like dish made for me by my mother years ago. When I was still living at home in Malaysia, sometimes she would make soft tofu (we call it “tauhu” there) with fermented soy beans. I loved that dish. I should ask her for the recipe…
Anyway, mapo tofu is originally a Chinese Sichuan dish, and is supposed to be really, really spicy! The Japanese have their own take on this dish, and their rendition tends to be less oily, less watery, and much less spicy. Mine is mild, but you can add more dou ban jiang if you want it spicy. I really liked Cooking With Dog’s mapo tofu recipe, and I actually based my recipe off of hers, with a few small alterations.
In the above picture most of the ingredients are shown: Bunashimeji mushrooms, ginger, tofu, tian mian jiang, dou ban jiang, sake, soy sauce, and Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef (which is basically soy protein bits; you can use hydrated soy protein instead).
Dice the mushrooms (whatever kind you use), cut the tofu into small-ish cubes, and cut the ginger into thin slivers (or mince it if you like).
Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat and fry the mushrooms until soft and cooked. Then add the soy protein in and fry until heated through.
Push everything to the side of the pan, and put the ginger on the free space in the pan. Cook until fragrant, and then push it to the side and throw in the tian mian jiang and dou ban jiang. Stir these on the free space until they darken a bit, then mix everything together.
It’s starting to look yummy. Now throw in a dash of sake and mix it up while the alcohol cooks off.
Now put in your vegetable stock and more soy sauce and sake…
Don’t forget the tofu! Stir it carefully with your spatula so you don’t break the cute white cubes. Shake the pan a little without slopping everything over the side. Let it bubble over slightly lower heat for a couple of minutes. Then stir in a mixture of potato starch and water, raise the heat a bit, wait 30 seconds or so and then turn it off when the sauce is thicker. Voila!
Serve with some rice on the side. I made lemon rice, and it was overwhelmed by the mapo tofu, so save yourself the trouble and just make plain rice.
Mapo Tofu (Japanese-style)
- 1 Tbs canola oil (or sesame oil)
- 340g (12 oz) Trader Joe’s Beef-less Ground Beef (or dehydrated soy protein, rehydrated in hot water for 5-10 mins)
- 1 cup diced mushrooms (Bunashimeji, shiitake, etc.)
- 1 Tbs minced or slivered ginger
- 1 Tbs dou ban jiang (“hot broad bean paste”)
- 1 Tbs tian mian jiang (“sweet wheat paste”)
- 1 Tbs sake
- 1 tsp vegetable stock granules
- 300ml hot water
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs sake
- 1 block medium soft tofu (soft or firm works too)
- 2 tsp potato starch
- 4 tsp (1 1/3 Tbs) water
- Mix stock granules with hot water and set aside. Mix potato starch with the 4 tsp water in a separate dish and set aside.
- Heat oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender (5-6 minutes). Add the soy protein and cook until it gets heated through.
- Move everything to one side of the pan and fry the ginger on the free space in the pan until aromatic, 30 seconds. Move it over to everything else to free up space again, and add at the dou ban jiang and tian mian jiang, stirring them in the free area without mixing the vegetables with the sauces. When they darken, mix everything together thoroughly. Add 1 Tbs sake and stir until the alcohol evaporates.
- Pour in the stock, another 1 Tbs sake and soy sauce. Stir everything together, and then incorporate the tofu cubes gently. Swirl or shake the pan gently if you need to in order to cover the tofu with the sauce. It will absorb the sauce, so don’t leave the white cubes uncovered.
- Lower the heat slightly and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Mix the potato starch with the water before you put it in. Pour it evenly around the pan, and then gently stir or swish the pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high for 30 seconds, and then turn it off when the sauce has thickened slightly.
- Serve warm with rice, and if you want it spicier, sprinkle some ground Sichuan pepper on top.