Sesame Chili Tofu

Tofu is terribly underrated. Usually categorized as a vegetarian food, tofu is a beautifully adaptable and versatile foundation for many dishes, vegetarian or not. The deep fried versions tend to be the most palatable intro, but there are so many other options for slightly more adventurous eaters. One of my favorite ways to prepare tofu is also quite simple-press, steam, stir, and serve.

Shake says: Pair this with a unfiltered sake. Stick to something on the drier side to cut through all the delicious spicy richness in this dish.

Ingredients

1 block tofu Note: I like soft tofu for this recipe, but some people prefer medium or firm varieties when first trying it, since the texture is not exceptionally common in most meat-eating diets. Eventually I’m sure you will come to appreciate the silken elegance of melting soy in your mouth.

2 tbsp. white soy sauce Note: If you can’t find this ingredient, substitute 1 tbsp. regular soy sauce.)

3 tbsp. regular soy sauce

1 tsp. hot chili sesame oil

½ tsp. sesame oil

Pinch of salt

Optional:

Seaweed Salad or Sliced Scallions Note: A punch of green is pleasing to the eye, and a crunchy note helps brighten up the overall dish.

Salt cured egg yolks Note: Cure eggs in small bowl filled 1/3 of the way with salt at least an hour before serving tofu. Nestle egg yolks in salt and cover with more salt. Eggs will be “soft boiled” after about an hour.

Bonito Flakes Note: Bonito flakes are a Japanese staple. Made of dried skipjack tuna, they provide a savory, flaky texture and visual appeal to many dishes.

Instructions

Tofu must be pressed before cooking to remove the excess moisture. Make two stacks of 5-6 paper towels, and fold them into large squares just slightly bigger than the tofu block. Make a “sandwich” with the tofu, paper towels, and two dinner plates. Stack a cookbook on the top dinner plate (two if you’re using firm tofu) and let sit for 30 minutes.

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While the tofu is pressing, mix the sauce together. Nothing fancy here-just combine the soy sauces, oils, and a little salt in a small bowl.

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When the tofu is pressed, it needs to be steamed for five minutes. Raw tofu is edible, but not exactly fantastic. I use a bamboo steamer, but any sort of steamer basket will work.

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Cool tofu to at least room temperature. Slice tofu into ½ inch squares, trimming edges to make even if necessary. Arrange on a plate and spoon sauce over the tofu-I like to use a slightly dished vessel so there’s a little extra dipping sauce. Garnish with all or none of the recommended items. Also, this dish is vegetarian if you forgo the bonito flakes, and vegan if you don’t include bonito or egg.

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