Tofu is arguably one of the plainest foods of Asia. It lacks flavour on its own and naysayers often complain of its tastelessness. However, because of this very property, tofu is actually a wonderfully versatile source of protein. It can be cooked in a variety of ways and be made to complement with whatever your taste buds desire. It’s a tofu transformer!
Tofu is often cooked in Asian dishes, primarily within Chinese cuisine. Each cuisine experiments with different textures and flavours to fit with their culinary stylings.
With Hong Kong being a great big melting pot of cultures, let’s embark on a tofu world trip within the city to experience the ironically tasty plainness of tofu.
Photo credit: That Food Cray
Do you like your food to be hot, spicy and bold, with a bit of tingle on the tongue? Sichuan food is widely known for their signature fiery touches that spicy lovers simply cannot get enough of.
One famous tofu dish in Sichuan cuisine is Mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐). Mapo tofu consists of silken tofu, minced beef or pork, chilli, bean paste, fermented black beans and a dash of oil. In Sichuan, they certainly have localised the otherwise bland cube into a dish famed for being hot and spicy.
Interestingly, the name of the dish has an intriguing backstory. It originates from the original seller who, after popular demand from customers, started incorporating minced beef into her tofu dishes. Everybody loved it and the cook herself.
Where To Try: SiChuan Da Ping Huo (四川菜大平伙)
LG/F, 49 Hollywood Road, SOHO,Central
Cantonese Style (HK)
Pan-fried stuffed tofu
A favourite amongst many Hong Kongers, this tofu dish consists of shrimp and sometimes minced pork or beef, and is then fried to give a golden crisp texture to the outer layer. Traditionally, the fried tofu is a Hakka dish, but has now been incorporated into Cantonese cuisine as a golden nugget of deliciousness – a perfect and satisfying snack in between meals.
Another typical Cantonese snack or dessert is the tofu pudding. This dish consists of silken tofu in a bowl of syrup, served with a variety of toppings such as sweet ginger, red bean, mango and coconut milk.
Tofu pudding with red bean and ginger syrup
Where To Try – Fried Tofu with Shrimps: Kung Wo Dou Bun Chong
G/F, 118 Pei Ho Street, Sham Shui Po
Where To Try – Tofu Pudding: Dream Tofa
Shop 6, G/D., 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Salted vegetable with soy bean skin and edamame (雪菜毛豆百頁)
Photo credit: Food Mayhem
Tofu skin (腐皮, dou pi in Mandarin) is a thin film formed atop of boiling soy milk, which is gently removed and left to dry. It can be bought fresh or dried, depending on what kind of dish you want to incorporate it in. Salted vegetables with soy bean skin and edamame are some of the most popular dishes in Shanghainese cuisine, consisting of fresh soy bean skin made into pasta ribbons. Along with the tofu skin, the ribbons are entangled with preserved snow cabbage, adding a slight saltiness to the much-loved dish.
Where to try: Wang Jia Sha
Shop 205, 2/F., Moko, 193 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok
Japanese culture is highly known for simplicity, not just in art and well-being, but in food as well. The Japanese believe in leaving food in its original form and taking advantage of nature to pick what’s seasonally fresh. This is the exact philosophy behind Hiyaykko. The dish, often enjoyed in the summer, consists of chilled silken or firm tofu garnished with grated ginger, shaved bonito flakes (katsuobushi), green onions, and then is seasoned with soy sauce. The light and cold tofu is definitely a perfect dish for the hot summer days.
Where to eat: Shirokiya
6/F, 1 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui
Sundubu jjigae – 순두부찌개
Photo credit: lv-lovestory1992
Korean stews and soups are some of the main dishes that make up this Asian cuisine. The word, ‘jjigae‘, translates to stew – it is typically eaten with meats, seafood and a wide range of ingredients, including tofu. The most famous Korean tofu dish is Sundubu jjigae – 순두부찌개 , a spicy “all-in-one” stew with silken tofu, vegetables, mushrooms, onions, beef, anchovies, kelp, gochujang (chilli paste), garlic and egg. This hearty, delicious stew is served in a stone bowl that bubbles with the fragrance of chilli, and is usually eaten with rice in order to make the meal a filling and satisfying one.
Where to eat: Arirang Korean Restaurant
3/F, W Square, 314-324 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai