Friday, February 03, 2006

Working Eater Series: 15 Minute Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu

I’ve decided to start a series of posts, dedicated to making speedy dishes for the working eaters of this world.

Whenever I talk to my colleagues at work about food, we often bemoan the lack of variety in our dinner meals. My typical work day lasts until 6:00pm, so when I come home, I have to act fast if I want to have dinner on the table by 8:00pm. Unfortunately, the majority of my home-cooked meals end up being rice, leafy greens, and meat marinated in soy sauce. Not very interesting, and I get tired of having the same thing everyday. However, I thought if I shared my "everyday" meals with you, I might learn some new ideas from you and hopefully, teach you a trick or two!

My favorite 15 minute meal is vegetarian ma po tofu. A good tip for the working person, is to stock up on tofu on the weekends, and have easy source of protein for your meal throughout the week. Plus, because
studies show that tofu is high in calcium and other nutrients, both Mom and your digestive system will approve!

Quick Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu
2 tsp of vegetable oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp of ginger, finely minced and with brown skin scraped off with a dull spoon
2 tbsp (heaping) of hot bean paste
1 tsp of soy sauce
2 containers of firm tofu, diced (can use silken, but add it later and do not mix it as vigorously to prevent "breakage")
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 medium scallions, green section sliced on a bias and white section roughly chopped

Heat the pan to high heat, and add the oil just until shimmering. Add the garlic, ginger, and white parts of the scallions. Cook until it begins to brown. Add the hot bean paste and soy sauce, and stir briefly. Add the diced tofu, and cook until the flavors seep through the spongy tofu crevices, just a few minutes.

Turn off the heat, drizzle the sesame oil over the tofu, and sprinkle the green parts of scallions on top.

Serve with leafy green vegetables stir-fried with chopped garlic, and that’s what I call a "quick vegetarian" meal!


  1. man oh man! i love tofu! I've been craving this dish for a while too. thanks for the recipe. i'm gonna try to make this for the first time one of these days.

  2. Looks great. I love simple chinese food, so tasty and comforting. I really wish I had a real wok stove so I can cook that stuff in a minute. I like your posting idea and I think people will find it very useful. Maybe you should rename your postings to "95 Meals for the 9-5er" haha. That'll be like a 2 year project haha. Glad you're back.

  3. Hello Christine D.! I adore tofu too! Generally, ma po tofu is made with silken tofu and ground pork. However, I like to use firm tofu when I am not adding pork. Firm tofu reminds me more of eating meat for some reason. Plus, firm tofu has more soy than silken tofu which has greater water content. Hope that was informative. I wish you a delicious tofu meal in the future!

    Thank you Eat, Drink, & Be Merry! Wow, a "wok stove" huh? One of my previous supervisors has a built-in wok stove. It's incredible--when people walk in his kitchen, everyone's eyes are riveted on it. With a built-in wok, who cares about his Sub-Zero fridge with marble paneling or the stainless steel Viking range? Unfortunately, he tells me that he doesn't use it often.

  4. Hurraaaay! You're back posting and cooking! I check in and BOOM!!! Two posts to catch up on! Gotta read your Dine About Town post next!

  5. Hi doll. I'm more in love with your writing than ever. The clever, non-necessary but totally adorable quotes around "breakage." Really works for me. Hm. : )
    So. Is the hot bean paste the source of the red tinge on the finished tofu? Gosh, it's just what I want to eat.
    I hope you will allow an interested gaijin (eh, sorry -- only word I can think of besides "anglo") to ask you for insights from time to time. Ingredients, sources, that kind of stuff.

  6. Mmm, the tofu looks yummy. But being quite a carnivore, I prefer mine with meat. :)

  7. i like tofu too. in cooking, i like the firm tofu better. i share the same view with you PE, firm tofu has that "meat" texture, especially if it is fried. i like to eat the silken tofu fresh -- with soy sauce, leeks or garlic.

    thanks for this recipe. i'll try to come up with my own and wilol share it with you.

  8. Thank you for checking in on me Elmo Monster! I'm gonna keep on cooking and posting, so stay tuned!

    You are wonderful Cookie Crumb! Thank you for your kind compliments, I love your site too! Yes, it is the hot bean paste that changes the tofu to a redish color. Hot bean paste is a great ingredient to keep stocked up in the pantry (and in the refrigerator after opening)! You can add it to soups, stir-fries, and ma po tofu.

    Thank you TFP, I saw your "parallel" post on ma po tofu, and noticed the your ma po tofu had silken tofu and ground pork!

    You're welcome J Haw! When you post your recipe, I'll refer my friends and readers to your site! Your logic about eating cooked firm tofu and fresh silken tofu is strong--fresh silken tofu is delicate, and better eaten unadulterated. My Mom also prefers firm tofu because of the stronger soy flavors.

  9. I was craving this dish since I had it in a restaurant months ago, but could only find recipes with pork. Thank you for a vegetarian/vegan option. I loved dinner tonight, and will definitely make this again!!!

  10. I used your recipe, substituting the green onions for dehydrated onions and schezuan sauce for the bean sauce (no time to run to the supermarket). I also used silken tofu, and it was absolutely delicious! thank you so much - i never knew i could make this at home!

  11. It's great, recipe is fine, but try adding some soy mince/quorn and a little water (for the mince to absorb) and create a sauce (which can be thickened with corn/potato starch.

  12. Love this recipe, with 2 caveats: My (Lee Kum Lee) bean paste wasn't hot enough; so added some cayenne to kick it up (YMMV)

    Also made a sauce with cornstarch/water - Mapo Dofu needs to be a little saucy IMO



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