A silken tofu recipe with crunchy toppings is a delicious study in contrasts

A silken tofu recipe with crunchy toppings is a delicious study in contrasts

Gochiso-Dofu (decorated tofu)

Total time:15 minutes, plus any cooling time

Servings:2 to 4

Total time:15 minutes, plus any cooling time

Servings:2 to 4

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There is a glass-half-empty/glass-half-full way of looking at tofu. The first is that it’s too boring to be interesting. The latter is that it is a versatile background for powerful flavors.

Consider this: Have you ever heard someone say they think fresh mozzarella is too bland and boring for a Caprese salad? Rather, it’s celebrated as the soothing counterpoint to tart tomatoes, grassy olive oil, and peppery basil. There are also plenty of other options, including balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes.

I consider this tofu recipe to be the Japanese equivalent of the Caprese, with some obvious exceptions: It’s made with a single block of silken tofu, which you may have never eaten before, but trust me, you should do. You top it off with a plethora of herbs, aromatics, spring onions, peanuts and high-quality soy sauce, serve it cold and let your guests spoon out their portions, as a starter or perhaps with rice as a main course. The tofu is almost pudding-like, and its subtle nutty flavor and smooth, creamy texture play a part in the crunchy, salty toppings.

In some Asian cuisines, silken tofu is not served as a log, but from a shallow bowl or jar, and it is sometimes made fresh. I remember the shock and delight when I first ate it this way in Tokyo, where for breakfast in a traditional ryokan a small iron pot stood over a flame and the server poured freshly made soy milk into it. The jar already had a coagulant in it—probably plaster of Paris—and after a few minutes under cover, the lid lifted and I spooned in the most ethereal tofu I’d ever eaten.

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You can do that at home; Andrea Nguyen has a wonderful recipe for it in her book ‘Asian Tofu’.

But on any weeknight, especially in the summer when I want something that requires no heat at all, I riff a recipe from Harumi Kurihara’s 2020 book, “Harumi’s Japanese Kitchen.” I start with store-bought silken tofu—I like to use the shelf-stable kind in aseptic packaging made by Mori-Nu—then cover it with whatever I have on hand. (This tofu has a slightly confusing label, in that it is silky smooth, as well as soft, firm, or extra firm. Any of these will work for this recipe, but I prefer the soft, which is the creamiest.)

Kurihara calls it Gochiso-Dofu, or Decorated Tofu, which gives you an idea of ​​how delicately she assembles the toppings. She wraps a paper towel around the edges of the tofu, allows it to protrude a few inches above the surface (kind of like making a paper collar for a souffle), and after arranging the toppings, she removes the towel to make a perfect clean edge. Then she carefully pours the dark sauce along that edge so that it coats the sides of the tofu without disturbing the toppings.

With all due respect, I don’t have time for that. Plus, I like to drop some of the herbs, nuts, and scallions onto the serving platter and then drizzle it over with the sauce, keeping the off-white flesh of the tofu clean against the black. This dish is all about contrast – dark and light, crunchy and creamy, intense and mild – and don’t you want to show it off?

Gochiso-Dofu (decorated tofu)

Think of the tofu as a blank canvas, and feel free to substitute your favorite nuts, seeds, and spices for the ones listed here. If you have a garden, this is a great use for herb or other plant blossoms. This is a delicious starter for four people, but you can also serve it as a main course for two, with rice. Use tamari instead of soy sauce to make the dish gluten-free.

Storage Notes: Freshly made, the tofu is best to taste and see, but you can keep it in the fridge for 3 days.

Where to buy: Mirin, Japanese sweet rice cooking wine, can be found in well-stocked supermarkets or Asian markets.

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  • One (12-ounce) package silken tofu, drained
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint, basil, shiso, or a mixture, plus small leaves for optional garnish
  • 1 spring onion, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon white and/or black sesame seeds
  • Chive blossom, for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tablespoons mirin

Place the tofu on a serving platter. If it was in a shelf-stable container and at room temperature, refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 8 hours before topping and serving.

Sprinkle the top of the tofu with the chopped herbs and spring onions, then the ginger, peanuts and sesame seeds. Garnish with the small whole herb leaves and chive blossoms, if using.

In a small measuring cup with a pouring spout, mix the soy sauce or tamari and mirin together. Pour the sauce around the tofu on the serving platter and serve.

Per serving (1/2 cup tofu and toppings, 1 1/2 tablespoons sauce), based on 4

Calories: 109; Total fat: 5 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 536mg; Carbohydrates: 11 g; Dietary fiber: 1 g; sugar: 4 g; Protein: 6 grams

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietician or nutritionist.

Adapted from “Harumi’s Japanese Cuisine” by Harumi Kurihara (Octopus Conran, 2020).

Tested by Joe Yonan; e-mail questions to [email protected]

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