RECIPE: Mabo (or Mapo) Eggplant

  • 2 min read
Mabo eggplant


Mabo Dofu is the Japanese take on Mapo Tofu, a Chinese dish originating from Sichuan province made with chilies and peppercorns. While traditional Mapo Tofu is known for its spicy and numbing qualities, the Japanese version is milder but just as flavorful, making it a family-friendly option. In this recipe, we swap out tofu for eggplant for a unique, veggie-packed twist on a classic dish! If you’re searching for a fast and easy weeknight recipe, look no further!

To make Mabo Eggplant, start by preparing your eggplant. Cut it into bite-sized strips or cubes, then sautee until golden brown. You’ll know your eggplant is ready when the inside is soft and the edges are caramelized. Next, cook your ground meat and mushrooms, then mix in doubanjiang, sake, and water. Doubanjiang is a fermented bean paste with an intensely savory and deep flavor. Similar to miso, it imparts this dish with a base of rich umami flavor. Next, mix in sugar and soy sauce, both of which will caramelize and add a touch of sweetness to the sauce. Finally, prepare a slurry by mixing together potato starch and water, then stir it into the pan. The slurry will thicken the sauce, allowing it to cling to and coat each piece of eggplant. For additional fragrance and flavor, drizzle some sesame oil over the dish. Optional garnishes include green onion and sesame seeds. 

Try serving Mabo Eggplant donburi-style by spooning it over a bowl of steamed rice!


Servings: 2 servings


  • 4 small eggplants (360g) (cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • Oil for frying
  • 150-200g ground pork or chicken
  • 100g shimeji mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp doubanjiang (fermented bean paste)
  • 2 tbsp sake
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce*
  • 1 tbsp potato starch
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil


    1. Place the eggplant in pan on medium heat with oil. Cover and cook. Turn the heat to low when the eggplant browns and cook for another 2 mins. Remove the eggplant and set aside.
    2. Fry the ground meat in a pan with oil on medium heat. Add the mushrooms when the meat is almost fully cooked and cook for another 2 mins.
    3. Add the doubanjiang, sake, and 2/3 cup of water and boil.
    4. Mix in sugar and soy sauce. Cover and simmer for 3 mins.
    5. Add the cooked eggplant and simmer for 1-2 mins.
    6. In a small bowl, mix the potato starch and water. Stir into the pan. 
    7. Add sesame oil at the end for extra flavor, serve and enjoy!

    *Available in our Creative Beginnings: Redefining “Wa” Care Package


    Introduction courtesy of Britney Budiman

    Britney Budiman

    Britney Budiman (@booritney) is a writer, minimalist, aspiring effective altruist, and runner-in-progress with a penchant for saying “yes.” Previously, she has worked in Cambodia at a traditional arts NGO, in Brazil as a social sciences researcher, and in San Francisco at a housing start-up. She currently lives in the countryside of Kagoshima, Japan, where she teaches English. Her favorite thing in the world is good conversation.

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