Koi Fish Bento with Mapo Tofu and Gyoza

Koi fish bento with gyoza and mapo tofu

No fish was harmed in the making of this bento

Hi guys! Did you all have a good weekend?

This week’s bento was sort of an experimental bento. I bought a different brand of vegetarian mince (I normally eat Quorn, but decided to give Neal’s Yard soy protein a try) and decided to cook it two ways: mushroom and veggie mince yaki-gyoza (grilled dumplings), and vegetarian mapo doufu or mapo tofu (Szechuan style tofu in a spicy bean sauce). I added to my bento two koi (Japanese carp) rice balls decorated with nori and carrot peel, radish stars, and omelette strips to create a lattice effect over the tofu.

Mapo doufu is like chilli or bolognese; everyone’s got their own recipe. It is usually cooked with pork, but as I don’t eat meat, I needed to add some depth to the dish, hence the miso paste. Unlike pork, vegetarian mince does not add any flavour to the dish, only texture. Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 1 block of firm tofu (drained well and cubed)
  • 100g of vegetarian mince (the brand doesn’t matter, as long as it tastes good in a stew)
  • 1.5 tbsp of sesame oil (1 tbsp for oiling the wok, 0.5 tbsp to drizzle)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
  • 1 small knob of ginger, crushed and sliced very thinly
  • 2 stalks of spring onions / scallions (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp of Shaoxing rice wine (or substitute with sake or white wine)
  • 1 tbsp of soy sauce (reduce or omit if your miso paste is very salty)
  • 1 tbsp of dark coloured miso (e.g. brown rice miso or red miso)
  • 2 tbsp of chilli bean sauce (doubanjiang or sometimes romanised as toban djan – increase or reduce depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 1 tbsp of black bean sauce
  • 2 tsp of chilli powder (reduce or omit depending on your preference)
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated in 150ml of hot water – save this water)
  • 2 tsp of cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tbsp of water
  • Other optional things you may wish to add: I added diced white mushrooms, diced carrot, julienned broccoli stem, and julienned yellow pepper


1. Wrap tofu in paper towel and place something moderately heavy on top of it to drain excess water. Leave it for 15 minutes, then unwrap and cut into cubes.

2. Once shiitake mushrooms are soft, remove from water and dice. Save the water for later.

3. Heat wok and add 1 tbsp of sesame oil. Ensure wok surface is coated evenly. Add garlic and ginger and fry until aromatic but not brown. Then add vegetarian mince, mushroom, and (optional) vegetables.

4. Push the mince and mushroom mix to the side gently using a spatula and add the doubanjiang, black bean sauce, miso paste, and chilli powder. Mix well.

5. Add the Shaoxing rice wine and stir until the liquid has almost evaporated.

6. Add shiitake water and soy sauce and mix well.

7. Add tofu cubes and bring the liquid to a boil. Simmer on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Make sure that you taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. As it is simmering, bathe the tofu in the liquid to help it absorb the flavour better.

8. Add half of the spring onions and stir gently to avoid breaking the tofu.

9. Pour in cornstarch mix to thicken the sauce. Mix well until sauce is thick. Remove from heat and garnish with remaining spring onions. Serve with rice for a delicious dinner.

Hope you enjoy this recipe.

Tata for now!

Winnie x


8 thoughts on “Koi Fish Bento with Mapo Tofu and Gyoza

  1. I don’t know what Gyoza is but that Bento looks very beautiful. If you gave me to eat, you’d find me staring at it by the end of the day. I love your talent!

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