What I love about tofu is its versatility. Whether tofu is pan fried, shallow fried, baked, or simmered in a sauce, tofu can be manipulated into a variety of textures and take on any flavors. One method of preparing tofu that I don’t think gets enough attention is serving soft or silken tofu as a savory cold dish.
I first discovered cold tofu dishes when I studied in Nanjing, China 15 years ago. Often, restaurants would drizzle a tangy soy sauce mixture over sliced chilled tofu. It was the perfect dish to eat on hot and humid days in Nanjing.
This cold tofu dish is inspired by all those meals I had as a graduate student in China. I love eating this chilled tofu so much that I easily eat everything by myself in one sitting!
INGREDIENTS FOR COLD TOFU DISH
WHAT KIND OF TOFU TO USE
Cold tofu dishes are best served with a variety of tofu that has a silky mouthfeel. That’s why I recommend using soft or silken tofu, preferably ones that are refrigerated inside a plastic tray. I don’t recommend using firmer styles of tofu (anywhere from firm to super firm) because the tofu curds have too much texture.
You will not need to cook the tofu any further before preparing this dish. Tofu is usually fully cooked before the packaging process. Simply drain the block of tofu and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.
To make the sauce, grate 2 cloves of garlic with a microplane zester (affiliate link). Mix the garlic with rice vinegar and let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes to take out some of the raw bite of the garlic. You can also use apple cider vinegar in place of rice vinegar.
Next, add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 1/2 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce (see recipe here), and a small drizzle of sesame oil. I like using my teriyaki sauce in this recipe because it adds savory, sweet, and umami flavor all at once. If you prefer not to make teriyaki sauce for this recipe, you can increase the amount of soy sauce to 2 tablespoons and add 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any sweetener of choice.
Taste the sauce and adjust it to suit your taste. Don’t forget, you will be spreading the sauce over a block of flavorless tofu, so don’t worry if the sauce seems a bit salty at this point. If the sauce is too tangy for your taste, add a little more sweetener.
I recommend topping the cold tofu with toasted sesame seeds, scallions, and crushed fried onions for some crunch and extra flavor. Gochugaru, furikake, and chili crisp are great additions as well!
CAN YOU MAKE THIS DISH AHEAD?
Although you can make the sauce ahead of time, I don’t recommend assembling the dish until you are ready to serve.
MORE TOFU RECIPES
- Pan-Fried Teriyaki Tofu
- Vegan Mapo Tofu
- Salt & Pepper Tofu
- Strawberry & Teriyaki Tofu Spring Rolls
- Spicy Tofu with Creamy Coconut Sauce
Cold Tofu with Tangy & Garlicky Sauce
- 1 (14 to 16 ounce) block of soft or silken tofu, (see note 1)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar, (see note 2)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons teriyaki sauce, (see note 3)
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar, optional
- 1/4 cup (18g) fried onions
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions
- 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
- Drain and remove the block of tofu from the plastic tray. (See note 4) Place the tofu on a chopping block and let that sit so that the tofu can release some of its moisture.
- Using a microplane zester, grate 2 cloves of garlic. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl and mix it with the rice vinegar. Let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, mix in the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and sesame oil. Give the sauce a taste. Add the sugar (or any sweetener) if you find the sauce to be too tangy (I usually do).
- Use a mortar and pestle or your hands to gently crush the fried onions.
- Carefully place the tofu in a shallow bowl. Use a spoon to drizzle about 2/3 of the soy sauce mixture over the tofu. I like to save some sauce to spoon over the tofu pieces as I eat them.
- Soft/Silken Tofu: Cold tofu dishes are best served with a variety of tofu that has a silky mouthfeel. That’s why I recommend using soft or silken tofu, preferably ones that are refrigerated inside a plastic tray.
- Vinegar Substitute: If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar instead.
- Using Teriyaki Sauce: I like using my teriyaki sauce in this recipe because it gives savory, sweet, and umami flavor all at once. If you prefer not to make teriyaki sauce for this recipe, you can increase the amount of soy sauce to 2 tablespoons and add 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey, maple syrup, or any sweetener of choice.
- Removing Tofu From Tray: Some tofu brands pack their soft tofu so that it’s tightly molded to the plastic tray, which makes the tofu difficult to remove in one piece. If this happens to you, flip over the container so that the plastic tray is facing up. Use scissors to cut off the corners of the tray, Then, cut along the top edges of the tray and remove the top. Finally, slide off the sides of the tray in one piece.