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Mabo Tofu

This is a Japanese version of popular Chinese dish (mapo tofu), which is a spicy stew of tofu and ground pork. My Mabo Tofu is seasoned with miso, and it gives nice rich flavor to the dish. For the spicy heat and extra umami, tobanjan (Chinese chili bean paste) is an essential ingredient for this dish. While there is no ideal substitute for this ingredients, if you can't find it, Sriracha could work also. You can make this dish with any classic-style donabe, or Mushi Nabe without the steam grate. I used my Bistro Mushi Nabe in the photos in this recipe.


Medium-size Classic-style donabe (2-qt/ 2,000 ml or larger)




  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 knob ginger, minced (about 1 tablespoon total)
  • 8 oz (220 g) ground pork
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons tobanjan (Chinese hot bean paste)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons miso
  • 1 teaspoon raw brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 cup (240 ml) Japanese chicken stock (can substitute with instant Asian chicken stock), kept hot
  • 20 oz (600 g) medium-firm or soft tofu, drained of excess moisture and cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons katakuriko (potato starch), dissolved with 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 oz (60 g) nira (garlic chives), minced or some minced scallion
  • Sansho powder, for serving


    1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the sesame oil in the donabe over medium-heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and ginger, and sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute).
    2. Add the pork and continue to sauté until the meat becomes crumbly and almost cooked through.
    3. Push the meat to one side and add the tobanjan to the open side of the donabe. Stir the tobanjan until fragrant before stirring together with the meat.
    4. Add the miso and sugar, and stir until the ingredients are well blended with the meat.
    5. Deglaze with the sake, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the stock and tofu. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
    6. Add the soy sauce, and stir. Slowly stir in the katakuriko mixture into the donabe. 
    7. Add the nira and stir. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with some sansho powder on the side.

    I love it very spicy.

    • This dish is traditionally served with plain rice. You can even pour Mabo Tofu over the rice to make a rice bowl dish. (It’s called Mabo Don.) With plain rice made in donabe rice cooker, Kamado-san, this humble dish becomes sublime!

    About the measurements used in our recipes

    For rice measurement, traditional Japanese rice measurement is used.
    • 1 rice-cup = 3/4 US cup = 180 ml
    Other conversions (US to metric measures)
    • 1 cup = 240 ml1
    • 1 inch (1") = 2.5 cm
    • 1 ounce (1 oz) = 30 ml