Microwaved Mabo Aubergine

Mabo Aubergine is a popular Japanese variation of the Sichuan Chinese Mapo Tofu (also known as pockmarked grandma’s beancurd). Here, aubergine takes the place of tofu – it’s soft, silky texture and ability to absorb flavours partners perfectly with punchy pork. But this clever recipe from Tim Anderson’s JapanEasy Bowls & Bento is even better, using a microwave to speed up the cooking, and handily also reducing the oil that is needed when cooking aubergine in more traditional ways.

You can prep and cook the Microwaved Mabo Aubergine in the time it takes to cook your rice!

Microwaved Mabo Aubergine

Find out more about the cookbook in our full review of JapanEasy Bowls & Bento.

Microwaved Mabo Aubergine
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5 from 1 vote

Microwaved Mabo Aubergine (Renji De Kanetsu Mābō Nasu)

Mābō nasu is a popular Japanese variation on the classic Sichuanese mapo tofu. I love it because aubergine has a similar squishy texture to silken tofu, but it absorbs the sauce better. The only problem is that aubergine typically requires a lot of oil to cook properly, which is not ideal for a bento. Enter our old friend, the microwave. Because microwaves steam vegetables using the moisture already within them, aubergines become soft and fudgy from the inside out, without getting waterlogged, when you cook them this way. And of course, this method can’t be beat for convenience – you can even store the finished dish in the same container you cook it in.
Author Tim Anderson


  • 1 aubergine (eggplant), quartered lengthways
  • 1 cm (½ in) fresh ginger root, peeled and finely shredded
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons doubanjiang or gochujang
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 tablespoon sake
  • 1 tablespoon red miso
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon MSG
  • ¼ teaspoon sanshō pepper or finely ground Sichuan pepper (optional)
  • 100 g (3½ oz) minced (ground) pork or beef (or vegan equivalent)
  • ½ green (bell pepper), roughly chopped
  • 5 cm (2 in) piece of leek, halved and cut into 5 mm (¼ in) slices
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil or chilli oil soy sauce, to taste
  • chilli (hot pepper) flakes, to garnish


  • Wrap each quarter of aubergine individually in cling film (plastic wrap), then microwave on high (700W) for 2–3 minutes until softened but not yet cooked through. Set aside to cool while you prepare the sauce. Combine the ginger, garlic, sugar, doubanjiang, water, cornflour, sake, miso, ketchup, vinegar, MSG and sanshō and mix well so no lumps of miso remain. When the aubergine is cool enough to handle, unwrap it and cut it into 2 cm (¾ in) chunks. Place the meat in a microwave-safe container and cover loosely with a lid or cling film (plastic wrap). Microwave on high (700W) for 2 minutes, then break up the mince with a fork. Add the prepared aubergine, pepper, leek and the oils and mix well, then re-cover the container and microwave again for another 4 minutes. Pour in the sauce, mix well, re-cover and microwave for 4 minutes. Check that the aubergine is cooked through by piercing it with a chopstick or cutting it with a spoon – it should be completely soft. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed with soy sauce. Decant into a serving dish, garnish with chilli flakes and serve hot or at room temperature. This lasts five days in the refrigerator.

This dish was a revelation! The pork and aubergine were beautifully cooked, and so full of flavour. The textures were superb and it was so quick and easy to make.

We loved it so much we made it two days in a row and it’s already become a firm favourite.

Microwaved Mabo Aubergine

Made the recipe? Let us know how you got on in the comments.

You may also enjoy these recipes, cookbook reviews and restaurants reviews for Japanese food.


Kavey Eats received a review copy of JapanEasy Bowls & Bento by Tim Anderson from publishers Hardie Grant. Book photography by Laura Edwards. 

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6 Comments to "Microwaved Mabo Aubergine"

  1. kaveyeats

    We do it often too, had it for the last two nights actually! Really pleased you like it, will pass on your thanks to Tim!


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