Japanese mabodoufu is one of my favorite comfort foods. I have fond memories of eating this over white rice on cool winter evenings.
My mother did not cook spicy food so we ate the mildest version using House's deliciously saucy mabo tofu packets; one of possibly 2-3 dishes she did not make from scratch.
While in college, I frequented Sanoya Ramen and was delighted to discover mabo tofu ramen! Ramen in broth with mabo tofu poured on top.
When Bug and I were at the library recently, I stumbled upon a beautiful yet down-to-earth Japanese cookbook by Harumi Kurihara, Everday Harumi. Flipping through the pages, her mabo dofu recipe leaped out.
Ms. Kurihara warns that with the addition of the dashi, her version results in a much lighter sauce than the thicker sauce one typically finds at Chinese restaurants. I enjoyed this lighter version for that very reason.
Recipe for Mabo Dofu adapted from Everday Harumi
2 c dashi
1/2 c shoyu
2 T sugar
2 T sake
4 T mirin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 oz fresh ginger, minced
1 lb ground pork (beef is okay too)
1 c bell peppers, red preferably, but any color will do
4 fresh birds eye chiles, trimmed and sliced (any chile pepper you are comfortable with)
2 lb tofu, rinsed then cubed
1 T potato starch (any thickener will suffice)
1 T cold water
cayenne pepper (optional)
1. Mix dashi, shoyu, sugar, sake, and mirin. Since I used a powdered dashi, the broth was warm so the sugar dissolved quickly. Set aside.
2. On medium high heat, add some vegetable oil to the skillet and fry the garlic and ginger for a few minutes until aromatic. Add ground meat and cook through, then add bell peppers and chili peppers.
3. Stir in the broth mixture and bring to a boil. Add tofu and stir, being careful not to smash the tofu.
4. Mix potato starch and water in a small bowl, then add the starchy liquid to the mabodoufu in the skillet, quickly mixing to avoid clumps of potato starch from setting. Serve.
I prefer my food to be a little spicy, but not searing. A sprinkle of cayenne adds a little heat to this dish on top of the birds eye chiles. Bug adds sriracha to his bowl.
When fresh green beans are available, we may add it. As with many Asian recipes, ground meat is not absolutely necessary. Bug adds oyster sauce to his bowl for a darker, deeper, and saltier flavor.
This recipe has been added to our regular rotation of dinners. Not only is this a good example of a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts, its simplicity is brilliant and the cost is nominal.