Mabo Dofu – Japanese-style recipe

A Japanese interpretation of the Sichuan Chinese classic
Mabo tofu pinit View Gallery 3 photos

Traditional Chinese Sichuan mabo dofu tends to be very spicy and oily. This recipe is based on the Japanese version of mabo dofu which is more of a meat sauce with tofu and is eaten with white rice.

This dish can be made with either beef or pork mince, or with a mixture of the two. This recipe calls for silken tofu which is very soft and smooth. Traditionally firm tofu is used but I prefer the texture of the silken tofu. Which one you use is up to you!

This dish is best served with plain white rice and vegetables in oyster sauce.

Mabo Dofu – Japanese-style recipe

Difficulty: Intermediate Prep Time 15 mins Cook Time 30 mins Total Time 45 mins
Servings: 4


Mabu Dofu is a spicy, warming and deeply moorish dish of spiced mince and tofu. The addition of Sichuan peppercorns gives that wonderful tongue-numbing feeling that is so ubiquitous of Sichuan cuisine.




  1. In a dry frying pan over a medium heat (6 or 7 if using electric) gently toast 2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns until the aroma is released (approx. 1 minute). Remove the toasted peppercorns from the pan and put into a pestle and mortar. Slightly grind (like coarse black pepper) and set aside.

  2. Remove the stalk of each dried Sichuan chili and shake to remove the seeds (don’t worry if they don’t all come out). Keep the chilis whole. Put the chilis in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak until needed for frying.

  3. Add 1 tsp of chili oil to a frying pan and heat to a medium heat. Add the leeks and fry until softened.

  4. Raise the temperature to medium high. Add another tablespoon of oil and the minced meat and fry breaking the mince into smaller pieces.

  5. Once the meat is broken down add the garlic, ginger and soaked chilis (reserve the chili water and add in the next stage). Fry for 1 minute being careful not to let anything catch.

  6. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the remaining chili oil (2 tbsp), water, 2.5 tbsp chili bean paste, 1 tbsp soy sauce and half tablespoon of stock concentrate. Stir and simmer for 1 minute.

  7. Mix 1.5 tsp corn starch with 1 tbsp of water. Add the corn starch slurry to the minced meat and stir. The sauce should start to thicken with the corn starch. Add more water if needed - the sauce should be similar to gravy consistency.

  8. Check for seasoning (extra salt should not be needed as many of the ingredients are very salty). Sprinkle over half the ground Sichuan peppercorns. At this stage the mince can be taken off the heat and kept until ready for eating.

  9. When you are ready to eat, cut the tofu into blocks of about 1.5cm. Heat the minced meat and add the tofu. Very gently stir allowing the tofu to get warmed without breaking apart too much (it will break a little).

  10. Drizzle with the sesame oil and the rest of the Sichuan peppercorns, and serve with white rice.

Keywords: Chinese, Japanese, tofu, minced meat
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