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Recipe: Mapo Tofu Don

Sichuan Tofu & Aubergine Rice Bowls Courtesy of Atsuko Ikeda

Many Japanese dishes are inspired by Chinese cuisine, and this particular dish originates from Szechuan, where at the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), the pock-marked (po) wife (ma) of a restaurateur became famous for her tofu recipe. Mapo tofu is soft and set in a spicy bean sauce and is traditionally made with minced/ground pork. It’s a dish that goes particularly well with steamed rice – maybe that’s why the Japanese love it so much! Szechuan spices can be very fiery to the point of numbing, so I’ve created a milder, but still fragrant version, using aubergine/eggplant instead of meat. It’s just as soft but much lighter… guilt-free seconds are a must!

400 g packet of silken tofu (soft tofu)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
10g. garlic, chopped
20g fresh ginger, peeled & finely chopped
1/2 leek, thinly sliced
1 aubergine, diced into small cubes

2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp red miso
1 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp runny honey
1 tsp Sichuan broad bean chilli paste
1/2 tbsp katakuriko (potato starch) or cornflour mixed with 1/2 tbsp cold water
400g cooked white Japanese rice, to serve 
1 spring onion, thinly sliced, to garnish



1. Dice the tofu into small cubes, then wrap in two layers of paper towels to remove any excess water. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, to make the mapo sauce, combine the sake, red miso, mirin, soy sauce, honey and Sichuan broad bean chilli paste in a small bowl. Stir together and set aside.

3. Heat the toasted sesame oil and vegetable oil in a medium frying pan/skillet over a medium heat. Fry the garlic, ginger and leek for 1 minute to infuse the flavour into the oil, then add the aubergine. Fry for 2 minutes until browned.

4. Add the mapo sauce and 80ml water to the pan with the vegetables, reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 3 minutes.

5. Add the tofu cubes gently, then pour the katakuriko (potato starch) or cornflour and water mixture around the rim of the pan. Bring to the boil for about 1 minute to thicken the mixture slightly, then remove from the heat.

6. Divide the cooked rice between serving bowls and add the mapo tofu. Garnish the dishes with sliced spring onion.

An extract from Atsuko’s Japanese Kitchen by Atsuko Ikeda