Tantalizing Tofu

A tofu dish you'll be excited to eat.

Yes, I’m well aware that ”tantalizing” isn’t a word that one often associates with tofu.

After all, a brick of white soybean curd is not something that gets a whole lot of people excited. Not like an In-N-Out burger done animal-style, or Ad Hoc’s beautifully crisp fried chicken, or a glorious Red Velvet cupcake.

No, tofu doesn’t elicit that kind of impassioned response. But it should. It’s a versatile, inexpensive protein that’s low in calories that we all would do well to eat more of in these lean and mean times.

To that end, I offer up this beauty: “Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce,” which has got to be one of the easiest dishes around.

It takes only minutes to prepare on a hectic weekday. It’s so simple, yet revved up with the bold, addicting sauce flavored with soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds, garlic, and green onions. Korean red pepper flakes are also in the mix. Italian red pepper flakes are an easy substitution. There’s also a hefty 1 tablespoon of Asian sesame oil in the sauce. Since the sesame oil is so pronounced in this dish, you’ll want to be sure you have a fresh bottle to use, not one that’s been in your cupboard for months that may have turned rancid. If in doubt, spend the money on a new bottle.

The recipe is from the March 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine.

Warm a slab of tofu in a pot of simmering water. Remove it, pat it dry, then spoon the sauce over the top. That’s it.

The custardy tofu soaks up all the salty-nutty-spicy flavors. With steamed rice, it makes for the simplest side dish or light entree with  stir-fried greens.

It’s one dish that just might make you go gaga for tofu.

Imagine that.

A simple comfort dish to make again and again.

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

(serves 8 as a side dish in a family-style meal or 2 as a light entree with rice and vegetables)

1 (14-to 18-ounces) package soft tofu (not silken)

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/4 cup chopped scallion

2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with side of a heavy knife

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

1 teaspoon coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Carefully rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

Meanwhile, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with remaining ingredients (except tofu).

Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a small plate. Spoon some sauce over tofu and serve warm. Serve remaining sauce on the side.

Notes: Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. Tofu can be kept warm up to 4 hours.

From the March 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine

Round out your Asian feast with:

Edamame Shiso Salad with Yuzu Vinaigrette

Miao Pork with Corn and Chiles


Wok-Charred Long Beans with Black Olives

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  • This dish sounds and looks amazing. My mother-in-law makes a very similar dish, and I love it! I’ll be making this soon! 🙂

  • I guess it’s true that I don’t exactly get excited for tofu, but I do really like it. This dish looks fantastic. Must try!

  • this looks amazing! I actually make something very similar, but I pour the sauce over the tofu and then bake it.

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  • I think tantalizing is an appropriate word for your photo! I love tofu (duh, I’m Chinese) and especially soft tofu. I think if more Americans ate soft tofu instead of the more firm ones used in a lot of vegetarian dishes, then they’d be turned on to it.

  • How timely. Just yesterday I was reading the rave reviews for SJ Tofu Co.


    I’m kind of indifferent to it, but perhaps trying this dish with some ultra fresh tofu will make me a true convert.

  • I agree, this is definitely tantalizing! I would eat it right now. I can’t wait to make this–I actually saw the recipe in Gourmet and then forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder!

  • My husband came to love tofu as much as I do thanks to my mom’s simple recipe, which might appeal to you too, Food Gal: grated ginger, scallions and soyu over firm (cold) diced tofu.

  • Tofu makes ME happy! Sometimes nothing else will satisfy. Usually with baby bok choy and carrots over noodles. And lots of ginger and soy sauce. Yummmm. Gonna try this sometime.

  • It’s hard to enrich the tofu but with a spicy and garlicky sauce… mmm totally scrumptious 🙂



  • Wow! Yum! I love tofu, and that sounds delicious! Now I know what I’m having for dinner tomorrow night!


    I’m sorry, I just had to come out and proclaim that out loud. I’m also SO not Asian!
    My mom makes the exact same dish a lot. I just can’t eat it because 1) I hate tofu and 2) I think sesame oil is stinky.
    Oh my God, I really am not Asian.

  • SkinnyGirl: You said the magic words for me: “grated ginger.” Must try that version of the tofu.

    Sophia: I can’t believe you’re Asian and hate tofu. Is that possible?? Hah!

  • Sophia: haha! that is possible. I myself don’t like tofu. ^^. peace!

  • I’ve always enjoyed tofu — with standard sauces and preparations. What property does tofu have that many menus also offer it cloaked as meats, fish and other forms? While sorely tempted, I’ve yet to order any of the culinary magic options because I’m such a wuss. Guess I fear being disappointed … what’s been your experience?

  • I was certainly tantalized by your photo, it looks amazing. My luck with tofu has been mixed but I am always game to try it again and I think after seeing this photo I may have to.

  • Wotten: I’ve never much cared for those faux soy “meats.” I’ve been to vegetarian restaurants that have “duck” or “Chinese roast pork” or “fish” dishes made of tofu and other soy products. My vegetarian friends will take a bite and say, “Wow, this really is like roast pork.” Me? I’ll take a bite and say, “Who are you kidding?!” 😉

    I’d much rather enjoy tofu as it is, not reshaped, remolded and rejiggered to be something that it never actually will be. That’s what I love about this simple dish from Gourmet — it lets the custardy texture of tofu shine through with very little adornment.

  • “Who are you kidding?!” Thanks for your candid opinion, Carolyn, which validated the warning sent out from my gut level sensor. Go, classics!

  • I was never big on tofu until I had this amazing “silken tofu” at a dim sum restaurant. This reminds me of it. Thanks for the recipe!

  • In the last few years, I’ve learned to love tofu and have been using it more and more. Somehow, I passed this by in May’s issue of Gourmet. My loss! So simple and delicious. On the menu for next week…

  • ok, you are so right – never would think i could go “gaga” for tofu. but this picture is making me feel like a believer. WHOA.

  • My kids have become tofu-fried rice fanatics! We love the stuff and it definitely helps on the grocery bill.

  • I can eat tofu every day… all sorts of way… fried, braised, in soup, steamed, baked… you name it. However, my all time favorite is deep fried with kecap manis and sambal. Simple and comforting 😉

  • San Jose Tofu’s tofu is the bomb!

    We do something similar, except we cook the sauce and leave the tofu cold.


  • I make something similar but it never looks as good as yours!

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