Friday, December 24, 2010

Egg plant and tofu braised in miso and pork 茄子と豆腐の肉味噌風味

This is a very tamed-down variation of Mapo doufu 麻婆豆腐. Mapo doufu is originally a Szechuan (Sichuan) dish but it has been modified and adapted to different tastes and countries. Japan has its own adaptation which is not all that spicy. It has been a very popular Sino-Japanese dish. More recently, Japanese are trying to make it more authentic (and spicy). I used to make semi-authentic one using both black bean garlic sauce 蒜蓉豆鼓醤, chili garlic sauce 蒜蓉辣椒醬 but my wife and Mapo doufu did not get along that well and I have not made this for a long time. I decided to remake this classic Szechuan dish in a non-authentic Japanese way.

I used to make two different version of Mapo doufu; One is with tofu and egg plant, which can be made as a vegetarian dish, and another, similar to the authentic recipe, with tofu and ground pork. This version is combination of these two; I used Italian eggplant, ground pork, and fresh shiitake mushroom in addition to tofu. If I get small Japanese eggplants, I will leave the skin on but, for Italian egg plant, I peel the skin.

For any Chinese-style stir fry, everything should be ready to go before starting.

Ground pork: As ususal, I hand chopped the trimming of pork tenderloins (about 1/2 lb). I sauteed in a wok with small amount of vegetable oil and dash of dark sesami oil on a high flame, so that it will cook quickly without exuding too much liquid and set aside.
Egg plant: I peeled and diced Italian egg plant (1/2 inch cubes, one medium).
Tofu: I diced firm tofu (one package, 1/2 inch cubes) and blanched, drained and set aside.
Additional vegetables: I sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (6-7 medium) and blanched snap peas (8). 
Seasoning: I chopped scallion (3-4 tbs, with some set aside for garnish), garlic (1 tsp or one fat clove) and ginger (1 tsp). I used a Japanese miso* (2 tbs), mirin (3 tbs) and chicken broth (about 1/2 cup), soy sauce (1/2 tbs). As a thickener, I dissolved potato starch (1 tbs) in sake (3 tbs) in small container and set aside. (* I could have used Chinese fermented black bean garlic sauce but I am making this in a Japanese style.)
Stir frying: I added vegetable oil (3 tbs) with a dash of dark sesame oil in a hot wok on a high flame and add scallion, garlic and ginger. When they were fragrant, added miso, then the egg plant and stir fried for several minutes and added mirin. After the alcohol has evaporated, add the cooked ground pork, tofu, and mushroom. Use your fancy "Iron Chef" moves to stir and flip (optional). I added the chicken broth and put on the lid, turned down the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. I stirred in soy sauce and the potato starch slurry to thicken the sauce. I taste it and adjust seasoning (you could add sugar or more soy sauce). I added a small amount of freshly ground white pepper at this point (I had to remember the whole exercise here is to not make it spicy). I splash a little bit of sesame oil on the surface, garnished it with chopped scallion (or chopped cilantro if you prefer) and arranged the blanched snap peas (or any green such as blanched broccoli or no green).

This is a totally Japanized version and is very mild in taste but still very good as is or over hot white rice. This one gets along better with my wife.

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