December 11, 2012

Lazyass Cookin’: Mapo Tofu

by Kayoko

Life is busy these days. With the shop in full holiday swing, it’s hard to find time to cook. But Yoko and I are good about taking turns bringing bentos — it’s nice to take the time to plan out what to make next. The key is to make a big vat of something so it can stretch out past just lunch (since finding time to make dinner is also challenging). And it needs to be easy enough that I can just roll out of bed and catching the bus to work.

Mapo tofu is pretty new in my repertoire of lazy cooking. I always thought that the sauce came conveniently packaged in a silver bag, per Hideko’s cooking style growing up. I never thought to make it myself. But it’s so easy, and much cheaper than buying it pre-packaged. Plus it’s a great way to go through whatever you have in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS
1 block tofu
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup chopped ginger
1 cup chopped green onions
3 shiitake mushrooms (optional — I’m putting shiitake in everything these days)
1 cup chopped greens (Chinese greens, spinach, kale, etc. I used shungiku cause I had it)

Sauce
1 tblsp gochujang
1 tblsp oyster sauce
1 tblsp  ketchup
1 tblsp chili sauce

Again, you can use whatever you prefer for both the ingredients of the dish, or the sauce. Vegetables like greens and mushrooms are not customary to this dish, however, I like to add complementary vegetables whenever possible. As for the sauce, feel free to improvise — add chilis for heat, honey for a touch of sweetness, black bean sauce for some funk, garlic for a kick, etc. I’d say the ketchup is key for acidity though.

METHOD

1. First thing’s first: wrap your tofu up in a paper towel and put it on a plate. Then weigh it down with something heavy. Do this to dry out the tofu as much as you can.


I learned to do this from Yoko’s baked tofu post. It helps immensely in not turning your stir fry into a soppy mess.

2. Chop up all the ginger, greens, mushrooms, onions.

3. Make sauce by mixing all ingredients together in a dish.

4. Once you’ve let the tofu sit under a weight for at least 20 minutes, cut it up into small bite-size cubes.

5. Heat up about a tablespoon of oil in a pan on high. I’m using grapeseed oil these days. Add ginger and scallions.

6. Once you can start smelling the ginger in the air, add pork to the pan.

7. Stir the pork around and once it starts browning, add the mushrooms and greens.

8. Stir everything together for about a minute or two. Adjust the heat as needed. Then, add the tofu.

9. Stir the tofu into the pork mixture carefully.

10. Add sauce.

11. Stir carefully so that the sauce coats all the tofu, pork and vegetables. Try not to destroy the tofu. That is sad.


At this stage, you can drizzle over some sesame oil for a nice nutty essence.

That’s it!


In Japan, they use corn starch to thicken the sauce, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Call me lazy, but I think cornstarch is a drag.

Plate…

…and GO!

I would say this took 20 minutes from prep to the end. Not bad for a hearty, nutritious meal.

I’ve made this several times now and I am always adding new ingredients. Next time, I think I’ll add some Sichuan peppercorns.

9 Comments

  • William Yardley
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I wouldn’t call that mapo doufu – is this the Japanese version of the dish? I think at a minimum, you should use doubanjiang and sichuan pepper for the dish to be considered mapo doufu.

    I would check out Fuchsia Dunlop’s version, which is easily available online:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jun/14/pock-marked-old-woman-s-tofu-recipe

  • Kayoko
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    @William I wouldn’t really call it any country’s version of the dish. It’s just my take on it. I’m not really a purist or snob about these things.

  • Yoko
    Posted December 11, 2012 at 9:54 pm

    I would call this… DELICIOUS.

  • Posted December 11, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    I agree with Yoko! There are huge variation differences of Mapo Doufu even between Cantonese and Taiwanese versions. Like curry the dish is versatile towards many interpretations.

  • Kayoko
    Posted December 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    @Yoko @Dennis Thanks guys! I hope to keep improving this recipe.

  • Posted December 14, 2012 at 4:58 am

    @William There are tons of variations on Mapo Tofu/Dofu. There’s even mapo tofu sauces available in pouches a la Hamburger Helper, like mentioned above. I make mine with a sauce that has doubanjiang, stock, oyster sauce, miso, and more.

    To me, if its chunks of tofu and ground meat in some sort of chili bean sauce, its mapo tofu. And hey, even the Dunlop recipe you posted is a variation- it’s a vegetarian version.

    I will say in Japan, it is usually served little milder, but that’s a pretty broad generalization.

    What I think is the most different and revolutionary about Kayoko’s take is the added greens and mushrooms. I will definitely have to try incorporating that into my next batch!

  • Yvonne
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Well if you want to get nit picky, isn’t gochujang a form of fermented bean paste? Which is all doubanjiang is …right?
    I think the tofu and fermented bean paste qualify it as mapo in my books.

  • Mehkko
    Posted July 17, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Made an really bastardized version of this, with vinegar, soy sauce, gochujang, salted black beans and garlic, and it was fantastic. I need to try some variations though.

  • Posted February 16, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    I was not confident how good this would turn out since it’s so simple and easy. But it’s totally delicious! thanks for sharing. I”m making this again and again, for sure.

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