Steamed Tofu

There’s this weird thing about soft tofu in the West whereby it tends to be used only as an ingredient in a more complicated dish. We see it as a component of vegan pies, smoothies, puddings, and batters, but rarely do we use it as the centrepiece of a meal. Conversely, in many parts of East Asia, silken bean curd is enjoyed with little more than a few fresh ingredients to complement the texture and refreshing nature of this undervalued ingredient.

Sometimes served cold, sometimes steamed, this simple recipe focuses on the latter (though could be served cold in summer), is quick to throw together, and tasty to boot. Don’t let an irrational fear of  fermented tofu get in your way of trying this. Yeah, it stinks and will try its hardest to put you off, but don’t be dissuaded. If there’s any sauce leftover, try using it in a stir fry or on steamed veg (especially broccoli).

This can be topped with any number of, um, toppings. Pickled stuff, fresh herbs (I used a few leaves of mint and Thai basil here), crispy fried shallots and/or garlic, salad-y stuff… You get the idea.

The end.

Steamed tofu in beer broth, with pickled chillies and spring onions

Serves 4 as a light snack or starter
  • Directions/Method
    1. Cut the tofu into 4 slabs (the size, shape, and how aren’t really important) and place each on a lightly greased plate/bowl. Mix 60 ml (1/4 c) of the soy sauce, plus the beer and mirin together and pour a quarter of the liquid over each slab. Steam the bowls for 10 minutes. If steaming multiple dishes is too much a hassle, it can be minimised to one or 2 dishes and re plated post steam.
    2. Mash the fermented bean curd, sri racha, black pepper and the extra 30 ml (2 tbsp) soy sauce into a smooth paste. When the tofu is finished steaming, top with two or more teaspoons of the fermented sauce and pile on the spring onions, pickled chilies, and other toppings, if using.
    3. Serve hot on its own, or with a small portion of rice to soak up the broth.


Any references to teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, or any fraction thereof, are based on American measurements.

* Any links to amazon.com or amazon.co.uk are affiliate links which will earn me a small commission should you make a purchase. This does not affect the price you pay for the item.


  • Keen on Food

    I’ve wanted to do that too, but the thing is I think the dish of fresh silken tofu really benefits from it being made fresh – from what japanese tell me – and not out of a vacuum pack. Looks lovely though. Have you been to Japan or somewhere they make it fresh and if so, how does it compare?

  • http://www.messyvegetariancook.com Kip

    Oh yeah, there’s definitely nothing like fresh tofu! I would never use the mori nu style tofu for something like this (in fact thanks for pointing the vacuum pack thing out). There are some Asian markets around me that sell silken tofu from UK factories. Not quickly from kitchen to plate, but still decent enough for this sort of thing.

  • http://twitter.com/KathrynElliott Kathryn Elliott

    Oh my gosh this looks good Kip. I mean really, really, *really* good. I’ve had things like this in Japanese restaurants, but never thought to make my own at home. I’m intrigued by the beer.

  • http://www.messyvegetariancook.com Kip

    Thanks! I use beer to marinate a lot of stuff, so I always seem to have the odd half a bottle. This recipe hence came as a sort of use stuff up attempt. It’s pretty tasty (and fast, a bonus).

  • Jojo @ vegan.in.brighton

    Beautiful. I need to make this. I love soft tofu on its own like this but I’ve never made it myself.