Microwave Mabo Aubergine by Tim Anderson

'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.'

Read our exclusive interview: Tim Anderson on Japanese Bento & Satisfying Food

This recipe is taken from JapanEasy Bowls & Bento by Tim Anderson (Hardie Grant, £25), Photography © Laura Edwards



  • 1 aubergine (eggplant), quartered lengthways
  • 1 cm (1/2 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 (3 ½ 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 (1/4 in) slices
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil or chilli oil
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • chilli (hot pepper) flakes, to garnish


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. When the aubergine is cool enough to handle, unwrap it and cut it into 2 cm chunks.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Decant into a serving dish, garnish with chilli flakes and serve hot or at room temperature. This lasts five days in the refrigerator.
© Speciality Cooking Supplies Limited 2024

Shop the Recipe


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

Latest Articles & Recipes

  • Should I Buy A Woody Pizza Oven? Real Life Review

    Should I Buy A Woody Pizza Oven? Real Life Review

  • What To Cook With This Month

    What To Cook With This Month

  • How To Eat Colomba

    How To Eat Colomba