We enjoyed this dish several times in Japan. Ma-Po Tofu is to Japan what maybe Kung Pao Chicken or Chicken Chowmein is to America. In Japanese supermarkets you can buy an instant version of it in a box. You cook the pork and tofu and then squeeze in the little packet containing the flavorful sauce. Sort of gross, yeah, but we were guilty of trying it out once. Now that we’ve made the real thing, we’ve found that it’s really quite simple! We were excited to use the authentic red miso that one of our dear English students mailed us all the way from Japan. This rendition is from my favorite Iron Chef – Masaharu Morimoto – so I trust his Japanese twist on a Chinese classic. We served this dish on top of steamed short grain rice, homemade miso soup (the real thing this time – made with dashi stock instead of chicken! woo hoo!), and a cucumber salad with rice vinegar and sliced chilis.
Tofu & Spicy Pork Rice Bowls
(Slightly adapted from the book Morimoto – The New Art of Japanese Cooking)
1 large or 2 medium dried shitake mushrooms*
1 TBS. vegetable oil
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 TBS finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 scallion, white and green separated, finely chopped
1 TBS. finely chopped bamboo shoot**
1 TBS. finely chopped celery
12 ounces (250 g) ground pork
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 TBS. red miso
1 TBS. Chinese hot chile sauce (tobanjan)***
1 TBS. sugar
1 TBS. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 1 TBS. water
1 pound (450 g) firm tofu, diced
scallion, sliced, for garnish
* we used 3 medium fresh shitake mushrooms
** we could only find canned bamboo shoot in our store, but it worked out fine
*** we used Sriracha hot chili sauce
- If using dried shitake mushrooms, soak in hot water to cover until soft, about 20 minutes. Drain, squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible. Remove stem and finely chop mushroom caps. If using fresh shitake mushrooms, simply remove the stem and finely chop the mushroom caps.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, white part of the scallion, bamboo shoot, celery, and hopped shitake mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the pork and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, breaking up any lumps of meat with the side of a spoon, until it is cooked through, with no trace of pink, about 7 minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, red miso, chili sauce, sugar, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in the dissolved cornstarch and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds.
- Shortly before serving, add the tofu and gently stir to mix. Cook until it is heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve in bowls with steamed rice. Garnish with a little chopped scallion. Makes 4 servings.