Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Other Japanese Place

A few weeks back, I posted about "That Japanese place by the other Japanese place by the Library." Well, this post is about the "other Japanese place," Cafe Zaiya.

Cafe Zaiya is a small take-out spot that offers sushi, bento boxes, mayo-laden sandwiches, salads with interesting dressings like Thai Peanut and tons of delicious-looking Japanese pastries, most notably Beard Papa cream puffs (YUM) and the mochi donut (more about that in another post). It is CONSTANTLY packed during lunch hours. And it's no wonder. It's super-cheap and pretty decent. I usually have the Salmon Teriyaki Bento, which comes with an assortment of interesting sides like hijiki, eggplant, sometimes potato salad, sometimes small pieces of fried chicken (which are fatty and not so good). However, the other day when I stopped in, I decided to go for the Mahpo Tofu... and I'm glad I did. Mahpo Tofu (also spelled Mapo Doufu) is made up of soft tofu and ground pork in a fermented black bean chili sauce. The tofu is really soft, so if you're not into that, I'd avoid it, but the flavor is good. The Mahpo at Cafe Zaiya is served in a bowl over rice with a couple of pickled daikon radishes on the side. It's a bit lighter in flavor than the Mahpo I've had in restaurants or even the one my mom makes. It's topped with a few scallions and has a slight gingery taste with a nice sesame oil flavor underneath. For under $5, it's an insanely good deal. Definitely recommended!

Note, if you're interested in making it yourself, here are a few Mahpo Tofu recipes:
Epicurious: Ma-Po Tofu
Cooking Light: Ma Po Tofu
All Recipes: Ma Po Tofu

I can't vouch for any of them, but they look pretty good!

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