Chinese food is popular in Japan. The seasonings are adjusted to Japanese tastes: sweeter and less spicy. The Chinese use oyster sauce and lots of garlic to make sauces for fish and meats. The Japanese use only rice and soy products: sake, mirin, soy sauce, and just a hint of garlic. One of the most popular Chinese dishes in Japan is ebi chili (shrimp with chili sauce). In summer Hiyashi-chūka soba
is a favorite. Come to think of it, ramen
is Chinese noodles translated to Japanese tastes. The recipe (Stir-Fried Liver and Chinese Chives)
I made in my last post is popular in Chinese-style restaurants, as are subuta
(sweet and sour pork), yaki-soba
(fried noodles), gyoza
and shumai (meat dumplings), and Chahan (Japanese fried rice).Today’s recipe, Mabo Tofu is another Chinese transformed to Japanese dish. Tofu and ground pork are cooked in a spicy sauce to become more than the sum total of the parts! This recipe is composed from several recipes for Japanese-style mabo tofu. I haven’t tried Chinese mabo tofu, the this version was spicy enough for me! I’d say that mabo tofu is like American chili in that everyone has a favorite interpretation—there are no mabo tofu authorities standing by to determine if your recipe is authentic or not!
a Chinese dish adapted to Japanese tastes
from several sites online
- 1 block cotton tofu, about 1 lb
- ½ lb ground pork
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
- ½ negi or 4 or 5 green onions
- white part only, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp tobanjan
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp sake
- 3 tbsp miso
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp katakuriko/corn starch
mixed with 1 Tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon sansho powder
- ½ Tablespoon Japanese sesame oil
- green onions, green part only, cut into rings
- 4 cups steamed rice
Wrap tofu in a towel, add some weight (plate with a can of tomatoes or whatever), and let the tofu drain for about 30 minutes. Cut tofu into ½-inch cubes. Set aside. Some recipes call for boiling the tofu, or for stir-frying the cubes with sesame oil, but I opted for the easy way.
In a two cup measuring cup, combine water, sake, miso, and sugar. Stir until the sugar and miso dissolves. Set aside.
Heat oil in a wok on low heat, add garlic, ginger, and onion. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the tobanjan, give it a stir, the add the ground pork. Break up the chunks of meat until the color changes. Pour the sauce mixture into the wok and bring it up to a simmer. Add tofu cubes, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Mix the corstarch with the water and stir it into the wok. Stir gently, so as not to break the tofu cubes, until the sauce is thickened and glossy.
Serve in bowls on top of Japanese rice. Sprinkle a little shansho powder and sesame oil on each bowl. Garnish with the onions.