When Aya and I first got married, one dish she made frequently was mapo tofu, or mabo dofu. From what I understand, it’s originally a Chinese dish, but is a very common dinner meal in Japan. It’s a really simple tasty dish. Even my dad likes it and he doesn’t like tofu! But recently I was on a quest to find a perfect fusion chili recipe. Our school district has a chili cook-off every year and I was curious what would be a good chili that represented our Japanese immersion school. That captured both American and Japanese tastes. My first try was Japanese curry chili (which was fantastic), and now I decided to combine mapo tofu and chili. All the main ingredients of a typical chili recipe, but with all the spices of mapo tofu. The results were pretty good!
Mapo tofu normally has tofu in it. But something about having tofu in chili didn’t feel like chili. You also can’t have something related to mapo tofu and not have tofu in it either. So I decided to make the tofu like a topping. People frequently put toppings on chili. Sour cream, cheese, onions, chips, and avocado. So this is topped with rice, baked tofu, and sliced green onions. Yeah, I know, still not really chili, but that’s not the point. I cut the tofu in small cubes, tossed them in soy sauce, and then baked them. Baked long enough so they weren’t super soft, but not too long they were dry and crunchy. It was the perfect topping for this.
Between the Japanese curry chili I did and this, this definitely felt more like a chili dish. Between the texture of the beans and peppers and the spices from the doubanjiang bean paste, this seemed like a really good blend. My kids went bonkers for it too. That’s always a plus!