Chinese-Style Cold Tofu (凉拌豆腐)

Happy World Vegan Day! Today is celebration of compassion, as well as morethanveggies.sg’s one year anniversary. I’ve come a long way since starting a simple tumblr 5 years ago to share foods I like. THANK YOU everyone for your support all these years!

I realised that I barely have many tofu recipes here when tofu is a staple in the Asian vegan lifestyle. Thus I’d love to share this recipe that’s my favourite way to have silken tofu – and no cooking required, just 3 basic ingredients!

Cold tofu is eaten in many South Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. I’m most familiar with the Chinese style of cold tofu as I grew up eating that. My grandfather would have it regularly for breakfast. Although he was a meat-lover, cold tofu was his favourite dish. Many times I served this to other omni friends and they loved the smoothness, umami and simplicity of it.

Despite the name, its usually served at room temperature or slightly warm, but seldom cold like its just removed from the fridge. Chinese traditional medicine believes that cold foods affect digestive health. I always blanche the tofu to warm it slightly before serving.

This dish simply silken tofu in soy sauce and sesame oil, then you can add toppings. Even if you don’t have any suitable toppings at hand, you can still enjoy it in the most basic form. Because of the simplicity, it’s important to choose quality ingredients.

3 basic ingredients.

A good soy sauce should only have 4 ingredients and absolutely no MSG – water, salt, soy and wheat. A good sesame oil should emit a strong, delicious fragrance right after opening the bottle. For tofu in simple dishes, I go for the organic sprouted type from NTUC as it’s closest to the nigari tofu (露水豆腐) from my “home”town. Tofu is traditionally made only with nigari which is a natural extract from seawater. Such types of tofu has a beautiful mineral taste that reminds me of sea breeze. Sadly most tofu sold in Singapore are modern ones made with GDL and other coagulants. They are not only less nutritious, but also not as smooth, springy and tasty as nigari tofu. People who say tofu is bland, I can totally understand them – most of us have never experienced the beauty of handmade nigari tofu.

Let tofu sit on sieve over a plate to drain excess water.

Chinese-style cold tofu

Basic Ingredients:

  • 1 block tofu
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Boiling water (optional)

Toppings I used:

  • Chopped spring onions
  • Sliced green chilli
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Kicap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • Korean seaweed shreds
  • Ginger
  • Chilli sauce
  • Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce
  1. Place tofu on sieve and cut into 8 parts. Immerse sieve and tofu in boiling water for 1 min. Remove and let tofu drain excess water on sieve for 5 mins. This step is optional, see notes.
  2. Add soy sauce and sesame oil to a bowl or small plate. Place tofu into it. Add toppings and serve.
  3. This dish can be made hours in advance and served cold. The longer you let the tofu sit in the sauce the tastier it gets!

Notes:

  • Step 1 is to kill bacteria and warm up the tofu without cooking. If you’re using wet market tofu (the type sold in a tub of water with no packaging), it’s more hygienic to blanche before eating. Because tofu can release a lot of water and that dilutes the sauce, let it sit on a sieve to drain.
  • If you don’t mind eating it cold and will consume it immediately, step 1 can be skipped.
  • If you’re making it in advance and only serving it hours later or tomorrow, you must drain it much longer for 10+ minutes. The longer tofu sits, the more water it releases and that can dilute the taste and spoil the look of the dish.
  • If your topping is quite salty, use less soy sauce.
Clockwise: Spring onions + sesame + kicap manis, Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce + spring onions, Korean seaweed + ginger and chilli sauce + sliced green chilli.

Marmite tempeh

I like Marmite – only in certain applications. My favourite is with thickly spread vegan butter. This recipe was inspired by Eight Treasure’s Marmite Ribs, a dish my family had during Chinese New Year and everyone (even the omnis) loved it. And because Eight Treasures is so far from my place and I can’t digest mock meats well, I came up with this recipe. Also because I bought a huge jar of Marmite on impulse and needed to find ways to use it!

Savoury, moist and high protein.

Marmite on it’s own, has a terrifying bitterness to my taste. Like their slogan “Love it or hate it”, I love it when used in dishes but hate it on it’s own. It’s got a unique concentrated umami flavour as a result of yeast fermentation that does not occur in other condiments. But the bitterness can be overwhelming when used too much, so I usually add sour and sweet flavours to cushion it. When used correctly, it gives the most lip-smacking savouriness to proteins with some tang and sweet aftertaste.

Tempeh can be found in Singapore at wet markets (at stalls selling mixed goods) or heartland supermarkets like Giant or NTUC (usually in refrigerated section near the tofu). This recipe has 4 main ingredients, is quick and easy to make and keeps well in fridge or freezer. Great protein item to make in advance for lunch boxes.

Remember to flip to cook both sides.

Marmite tempeh

  • 2 slices ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 block tempeh, cut to square pieces (I used the 200g block from NTUC).
  • 2/3 tbsp Marmite (or Vegemite)
  • 1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp of Chinese cooking wine (or other cooking wines, optional)
  • 1/3 cup stock/water
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice, or to taste

Mix Marmite, sugar, cooking wine, water in a bowl till Marmite is dissolved. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat, add ginger. Sautee till fragrant. Add tempeh and flip to coat evenly with oil. Lower heat to low-medium, pour liquid mixture in and mix to coat tempeh. Simmer till liquid is thickened and reduced, flipping halfway to ensure even cooking. Removed from heat, squeeze lemon/lime juice to taste and mix well before serving. Let cool before storing.


Perfect in a sandwich with vegan butter from Peace of Cheese and some chilli sauce!

Notes:

  • I personally prefer to cut tempeh thin as I find it holds flavour better.
  • Cooking wine helps to boost umami flavours in protein dishes, if you don’t have or don’t take alcohol, simply omit. Ginger here also has the same role.
  • If you’re really averse to Marmite, use soy sauce/curry paste/tom yam paste or any strong flavoured condiment of your choice instead.
  • This tempeh will be quite salty if you eat it on its own, as I made it to be a sandwich filler. Reduce Marmite amount or increase tempeh if you want less salt.
  • I find cooked tempeh can dry out in the fridge, so I usually reheat it by frying lightly on both sides with a bit of liquid (oil or water).

Check out more tempeh recipes here.