Recipe: Ma-po Garlic Mustard and Tofu

As a poor graduate student, I often try to find ways to save money and make the most out of what I have.  This week, that meant some light foraging and making a meal out of things in my fridge that were purchased on sale and frozen or about to go bad.  This is a traditional Szechuan dish made with tofu, cooked ground meat (usually ground pork), and Ma-po sauce.  My father would probably murder me to see how far I’ve deviated from tradition, but he also used pre-made sauce from a box, so he shouldn’t be  judging!
Ma-po garlic mustard and tofu ingredients (Photo credit: S. Sim)


A) A few handfuls of garlic mustard leaves.  Use the younger leaves if you prefer less fibrous vegetables, but if you like fiber, bring on the old ones!

B) One package of extra-firm tofu cubed (or use whatever firmness of tofu you prefer)

C) 3 cloves of garlic minced (unfortunately, the lovely garlic smell and taste of garlic mustard disappears quickly when cooked)

D) 1 cup mushrooms (optional)

E) 2 cups various vegetables, I used broccoli and okra because they were in my fridge and the okra wasn’t looking too hot.

F) Cooked meat of your choosing (It could be ground pork, beef… I’ve tried ground bison and lamb as well and they were all delicious).  Today I fried some frozen wild-caught sea-bass fillets that I lightly dredged in flour and garlic salt.

G) Not pictured:  enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan you’re using (I used canola)

Sauce ingrediens:

1)  3-4 Tablespoons of oyster sauce

2) 1-2 Tablespoons of chili paste (depends on your desired level of spice)

3) 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch dissolved in 1 1/3 cup of water

4) Soy sauce or flavored soy sauce to taste

The difficult/convenient thing with making food with what you have is that the actual amount of ingredients you use is pretty arbitrary, and the sauce is the only thing that requires some accuracy, but it’s still all dependent on your tastes.  If you like spice, add more chili paste.  If you want it saltier, add more oyster sauce or soy sauce.  If you want your sauce thinner, add more water.


1) Cook meat and set aside

2) Heat oil to medium-low heat and fry garlic until aromatic (Don’t let it burn!)

3) Add mushrooms

Stir-frying garlic and mushrooms

4) and vegetables in order of how long it takes them to cook.  I added the okra first, followed by the broccoli, then the garlic mustard.

Stir-frying okra, broccoli, and garlic mustard

5) Add oyster sauce and chili paste.  Mix thoroughly

6)  Add cornstarch and water slurry

Sauced stir-fry with cornstarch slurry

7)  Toss in cooked meat and tofu and you’re done!


Serve over rice.

Ma-po garlic mustard and tofu over rice (Photo credit: S. Sim)

Guten appetit!




A self-proclaimed modern day nomad, I was born in the Philippines, grew up in southern California—lived all over really—and now I do research as a graduate student in Indiana and the Pacific Northwest. Professionally speaking, my current area of focus is speciation and ecological genetics and genomics, and a common theme in my various projects over the years is evolution in agricultural systems. As a recipient of a GLOBES—an interdisciplinary program funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Integrative Graduate Education, Research, and Traineeship grant (IGERT) —fellowship, I have received training which has better enabled me to view and ponder topics without my science hat on. I take great joy in eating, cooking, and experiencing nature through various activities. I love to travel and anticipate many local and international invasivore field trips! Though my research interests do not directly involve the study of invasive species, I have had my fair share of negative encounters with environmentally noxious organisms in the midst of doing field research. I carry around a machete with which to combat my gnarly “Himalayan” foes, and my machete and I have raised more than a few eyebrows. Apart from my personal vendetta against these deliciously juicy pests, I feel that there are great advantages to linking our awareness of the natural world to our culture, and Invasivore is an avenue to do just that. I feel that an increase in general knowledge of invasive species will be of great benefit to the field of invasive species and conservation biology. Knowledge and awareness will lead to action, and action will lead to results!

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