If you’ve ever been to a Japanese supermarket or are familiar with Japanese groceries, you may be familiar with the “Mabo Mix” sold by Ajinomoto under their Chinese food specific brand CookDo. There are several different companies who sell the mix, but basically it is all the sauce components and meat of mapo tofu or eggplant that is sold in a retort pouch. All you have to do is stir-fry some aromatics (think garlic, ginger, maybe some green onion), add your tofu or eggplant and add this “mapo mix” to magically make a meal that rivals any Chinese restaurant. I grew up on this mix stuff and LOVED it.
I wanted to try making mapo eggplant without the use of this mix, but every time I tried making it, I kept thinking it was missing one component. I couldn’t figure out what it was, until I found tomato paste in the ingredients of Ajinomoto’s Mapo mix. It sounded weird (and honestly, a little gross) but I tried making my recipe with it and voila!! It tasted very similar to restaurant quality (and mapo mix quality :P).
My mapo eggplant, although less common, has the addition of tofu to make this a complete protein filled meal.The entire meal is vegetarian, however, you can always add any kind of ground meat in lieu of either the tofu or the eggplant to customize how you please. To add some greens, I’ve paired the meal with satueed garlic green beans which is a healthier take on the traditional Sichuan dry-fried beans. The rice can either be made in the oven as indicated in the recipe, or a rice cooker if you own one.
I food styled this shoot, and the absolutely LOVELY White Loft Studio shot and edited all the photos*.
- 3⁄4 Cup White Shortgrain Rice
- 1 Leek minced
- 8 Ounces Tofu cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 Inch Ginger minced
- 1 Eggplant cut into ½ inch cubes
- 3 Cloves Garlic minced and divided into 1 clove and 2 cloves
- 3 Ounces Green Beans cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 5 Teaspoons Mirin
- 4 Teaspoons Chinese Red Chili Paste
- 1 & 1⁄2 Teaspoons Tomato Paste
- 1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Corn Starch
Step 1: Cook the Rice
Set oven to 375°F.
Rinse rice and pour into 9×9 inch or similarly sized baking dish.
Bring 1 cups water to a boil and pour over rice. Cover dish with aluminum foil and place in the middle of the oven.
Bake rice, covered with foil, for 25 minutes or until rice is tender and sticks together.
Step 2: Make the Mapo Sauce
Mix soy sauce, mirin, chinese red chili paste, and tomato paste in small bowl. Stir until thoroughly combined.
Step 3: Cook the Green Beans
Place 1 tbsp olive oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add green beans and sautée 1 minute.
Add 3 tbsp water and cover skillet with lid. Let steam about 2 minutes.
Once green beans have softened, remove lid and add 2 of the cloves of minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste (about tsp each).
Sautée until green beans are crisp and garlic is browned. Remove from skillet and set aside.
Step 4: Cook the Tofu and Eggplant
In the same skillet, heat sesame oil over medium heat and add ginger, leek and the remaining clove of minced garlic. Sautée until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tofu and cook until lightly browned. Add eggplant and sautée until browned.
Add 3 tbsp water to skillet and cover with lid to let steam for about 3 minutes.
Step 5: Finish the Mapo Eggplant
Once vegetables have cooked through, add prepared mapo sauce from step 2 and stir to coat vegetables.
Mix corn starch with cup water in small bowl. Add mixture to skillet and stir to combine with mapo sauce.
Turn heat back on to medium and stir mapo eggplant until sauce thickens.
Step 6: Plate the Dish
Divide rice between two plates. Serve half the green beans and half the mapo eggplant beside the rice on each plate.
*These photos shot by White Loft Studio were from a recipe kit start-up that is now defunct