Who can forget watching Angel Beats! episode 6 where Otonashi, feeling bad about stealing her meal ticket the other day, treats Kanade to some super spicy mapo tofu? I remember thinking how cute it was watching her rediscover that it was her favorite food.
While Otonashi’s reaction to the spiciness of the dish (with appropriate red smudges of chili sauce around his mouth) versus Kanade’s calm demeanor was great to watch, this particular scene sticks in my mind because of its blend of comedy and drama. It’s here that we begin to see more about Kanade’s past and her motivations for acting the way she does, with her character development gradual but also touching and sad. Doesn’t hurt that the whole scenario with Otonashi is also very date-like!
Top the scene off with Kanade hurriedly gobbling down her mapo tofu at lightening speed before getting punished by Naoi, and I knew what I felt like for dinner tonight!
About the recipe:
Mapo tofu is a popular Chinese dish that originates from the Szechuan province. These days, it can be found in a variety of Asian countries, including Japan. While growing up, it was one of my household’s staple recipes. It’s very simple to make, doesn’t take too many unusual ingredients, and can be whipped up quickly.
About the ingredients:
Tofu: I suggest making mapo tofu with either medium or soft tofu. Avoid firm tofu for this dish because you want to have the tofu simply melt in your mouth as you eat it! Of course, because soft tofu can be difficult to work with and can break apart easily if moved around too vigorously, it is tempting to use firm tofu. However, you will sacrifice a lot of the silky texture that makes this dish so delicious! Be gentle with the tofu, but there’s no need to be afraid of touching or moving it around the pan!
Meat: Traditionally, mapo tofu is made with ground pork or beef. I typically use pork. I have found store-bought ground pork to be often too fatty, therefore, I like to buy a lean piece of pork (such as tenderloin) and grind it myself. Mixing the ground meat with soy sauce and cornstarch helps to tenderize the meat, as well as add some flavor. For this recipe, I recommend using Chinese soy sauce instead of Japanese soy sauce.
Cornstarch is also used at the end of the recipe to thicken the mapo tofu sauce. Make sure to dissolve the cornstarch in some water before adding it to the pan. If you add it directly to the pan, your sauce will become lumpy.
Bean sauce: When I make this at home, I like to use a combination of brown bean and black bean sauces, which gives the dish a more complex flavor. Brown beans are more mild in flavor than the distinct taste of black beans. The two bean sauces help to balance each other out, helping to create a delicious dish. However, it’s fine to use only one type of bean sauce! I would opt for brown bean sauce over black bean sauce in such a case.
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 block of medium or soft tofu, cubed
- 1 lb ground pork (can substitute with ground turkey or beef)
- 2 tsp cornstarch (plus another 2 tsp to thicken the sauce at the end)
- 2 tbsp Chinese soy sauce
- 2 tbsp bean sauce (combination of brown and black bean sauces)
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed
- Cooking oil
- 1 green onion, diced
- Chili oil
- Chili sauce
- Sesame seed oil
1. In a medium bowl, combine ground pork, cornstarch and soy sauce. Set aside.
2. Open your package of tofu and drain the water. Cut tofu into cubes, 1/2 to 1 inch in size. Set aside.
3. Place oil in your wok, and turn the heat up to medium high. When the oil is heated, add the brown bean sauce and pressed garlic, stirring vigorously to avoid too much sticking or burning. When fragrant (about 30 seconds), add in your ground pork. Break the pork up into very small pieces using your spatula. Continue cooking the pork and breaking it into small pieces until you reach a desired size and the pork is cooked through.
4. Add cubed tofu, and gently incorporate into the meat, being careful not to break the tofu. Turn your heat down to medium-low, and cover with a lid. Let it cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the water begins to seep out of the tofu, creating some sauce as it mixes with the bean sauce. This process should take about 10 minutes. If your tofu does not produce enough water for sauce, add some water to help it along.
5. Adjust your seasonings with soy sauce and additional bean sauce. In a small bowl, mix 2 tsp of cornstarch with just enough water to dissolve the powder. Stir this mixture into the mapo tofu and bring to a boil to cook the cornstarch. If you like your mapo tofu with more sauce, simply add water until you reach a desired consistency.
6. Once your seasonings and sauce are adjusted to your liking, garnish with chopped green onion. At this stage, you can drizzle with sesame oil and/or chili oil, and mix in chili sauce to make it nice and spicy.
Serve with rice and enjoy!
Source: My mother!