Recipe: mabodofu don (spicy tofu and pork over rice) by Sylvan Mishima Brackett

Use the best ground pork you can find and silken tofu for this warming dish

A bowl of mabodofu don
Recipe from 'Rintaro: Japanese Food from an Izakaya in California' by Sylvan Mishima Brackett
(Image credit: Aya Mishima Brackett)

Mabodofu is the Japanese version of the Chinese dish mapo tofu, said Sylvan Mishima Brackett. It gets its distinctive flavour from tobanjan, a Japanese-made Sichuan-style paste of fermented broad beans and chilli peppers, which is available in most Japanese grocery shops. And you should choose the best ground pork you can find. Although you can make mabodofu with medium or firm tofu, I prefer the lush texture of the silken variety. Like a curry, it is incomplete without rice.

Ingredients: makes 6-8 servings

  • 2 packs silken tofu
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or other neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1-3 Thai bird’s eye chillies, stemmed, seeded and sliced
  • 450g ground pork
  • ½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 8 tbsp red miso
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp tobanjan (or, if you can’t find it, Chinese chilli bean sauce)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 590ml chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp potato starch

For serving

  • hot rice
  • ground sansho pepper
  • sliced spring onions


  • Cut the tofu into 2.5cm cubes and gently place them in a bowl; add some hot tap water to cover.
  • Heat the vegetable and sesame oils in a wok, 12-inch/30cm cast-iron pan or casserole dish over high heat until the oil starts to shimmer. Add the ginger, garlic, and chillies and sauté for a few seconds until fragrant.
  • Add the pork, break it up with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook over a high heat until the meat has begun to brown. Decrease the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook until the onion becomes soft and translucent, about 7 minutes.
  • Add the miso, sugar, tobanjan, pepper and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, or until the pork is tender. Gently add the cut tofu to the meat sauce and return to a simmer.
  • In a small bowl, mix the potato starch with ¼ cup/60ml cold water, and gently stir it into the mabodofu. Cook for another minute or so, until the sauce has thickened.
  • To serve, spoon a portion of hot rice into a large serving bowl and then gently add the mabodofu. Top the dish with a pinch of ground sansho pepper and a mound of thinly sliced spring onions.

Recipe from "Rintaro: Japanese Food from an Izakaya in California" by Sylvan Mishima Brackett, published by Hardie Grant at £30. To buy from The Week Bookshop for £23.99 (incl. p&p), call 020-3176 3835 or visit

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