During the twentieth century a large number of Sichuan immigrants made their way to Japan, taking with them their own cuisine and eventually opening up restaurants catering to their fellow countrymen.  As time went on, the prickly, spicy dishes that the Sichuan province is famous for changed to suit the local tastes, gone were the copious amounts of dried chillies, pungent garlic and mouth-numbing peppercorns, instead replacing them with savoury miso, aromatic sake and sweet mirin.  One popular dish which received this transformation was mapo doufu or pock-marked beancurd; originally a sweat-inducingly hot, oil based sauce with pork and soothing pieces of beancurd to take the edge off the spiciness.  The Japanese version of the dish is a much more mellow affair, sweet and salty with a slight hint of chilli-heat, and a thicker, unctuous sauce.  This version of mabo tofu has found its place in Japanese cuisine as the nation’s favourite Chinese dish; in a similar way to Britain’s much-loved adaptation of Indian tandoori food, chicken tikka masala, it has evolved from its original form and become a fantastic dish in its own right.

A relatively modern etymological trend in Japan is the use of portmanteau in describing foods, such as anmitsu being a contraction of the words anko and kuromitsu, and in this case mabo tofu donburi- a bowl of rice with a topping- becoming simply mabodon.


Mabo Tofu- sweet and spicy pork with tofu.


  • 2 cups Japanese rice
  • 200g minced pork
  • 400g fresh tofu
  • 1/2 a leek
  • 1 garlic clove
  • thumb sized piece of ginger
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 250ml chicken or pork stock
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 3 tablespoons sake
  • 1 level tablespoon red miso
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon tobanjan or gochujang
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons potato starch


  1. Start cooking the rice as normal (or you can follow our instructions here).
  2. In a bowl, combine the mirin, sake, miso, soy sauce, oyster sauce, tobanjan, sugar and sesame oil.  Set this sauce mixture aside for later.
  3. Finely chop the leek, ginger and garlic before adding them to a frying pan with the vegetable oil.  Gently fry the aromatics until they have softened but not taken on any colour, then add the pork mince to the pan.  Turn up the heat to medium hot and fry the pork until it is sealed and lightly golden.
  4. Add the mixed sauce from step 2 into the pork and leeks along with your stock, then slowly bring to a simmer.  While waiting for the sauce to heat up, slake the potato starch in a tablespoon of cold water then add this to the simmering liquid, stirring until it thickens.  Cut the tofu into bite sized cubes and the spring onions into slices,  add both of these to the pan and gently coat with the sauce.  Let the tofu cook in the sauce for about five minutes, being careful not to crumble the pieces by stirring too vigorously.
  5. When the rice is fully cooked, divide it between your serving bowls and ladle the mabo tofu over the top.  If you like it a bit spicier, top your mabodon with rayu chilli oil and slices of red chilli.



Serves 4 people.


2 thoughts on “Mabodon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s