Japanese Mapo Tofu
This Japanese Mapo Tofu recipe was cooked using a tube of Japanese doubanjiang (chilli bean paste/豆瓣酱). I bought the tube from Daiso, but it’s not a Daiso brand so it’s probably available at the Japanese supermarkets too. I really like this sauce so it has made it to my list of pantry sauce staples for Japanese cooking. If you can’t find this, you can use any favourite brand of doubanjiang to substitute.
Japanese Mapo Tofu vs Chinese Mapo tofu:
- The Japanese mapo tofu often contains a mix of sweet and spicy hot bean sauce. The Chinese version typically does not contain the sweet bean sauce. So looking at the ingredient list, my doubanjiang tube paste already has this mix of sweet + spicy. Such a convenience!
- Japanese mapo tofu is usually much tamer in heat than the Chinese version. But since this is home-cooked, one can add on chilli to make it as spicy as you like (which I did).
- There is usually no Sichuan peppercorn in Japanese mapo tofu, which is a must-have in the Chinese version. The Sichuan peppercorns give the signature addicting numbing kick. Again you can add the peppercorns if you like them even in the Japanese style. I’m too lazy to toast the peppercorn on the dry pan most of the time, so I can totally live with omitting it.
- It’s common to see Japanese ingredients in their mapo tofu. I used red miso and mirin in my recipe.
This mapo tofu is so delicious and goes really well with rice. I ate the mapo tofu with Japanese short-grain brown rice.
I bought this tube of Japanese spicy bean paste at Daiso for S$2. I am currently into Japanese tube sauces these days as they are so convenient to use and don’t take up much space in the fridge. So you will be seeing more Japanese recipes using tube sauces in future.
The first thing I do when buying a new sauce is a taste test so that I can figure out how to use it. Especially when this tube does not come with instructions on how to cook. It’s really salty! Not spicy at all, but that can be easily fixed. I like that the paste has a vibrant reddish hue, giving a great colour to the dish. It seems to me that it will be useful for other dishes as well.
First, I marinated the mince pork (or chicken) in 1 tsp of the hot bean sauce and sesame oil. Mix it well with chopsticks until the colour is evenly distributed.
Heat oil in a wokpan. Fry garlic and ginger briskly until aromatic.
Add the marinated meat …
… and stir fry until the mince just turned opaque.
Whisk miso paste, hot bean sauce and hot water in a bowl.
Add this sauce to the pan.
Along with more water, …
… light soy sauce (pictured above), oyster sauce, mirin …
… as well as some thinly sliced deseeded dried chilli for extra heat (optional).
Stir to mix the sauce well, then cover with lid. Simmer contents for 2 minutes.
Add tofu cubes. Stir them in gently and mix in well with the sauce, taking care not to break the tofu.
Cover with lid again and simmer for another minute.
Lastly thicken the sauce to desired consistency with cornstarch slurry.
Add chopped spring onions to serve.