Warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion is a lovely dish to serve as spring turns to summer. Comforting yet still light, squares of tofu are seasoned with warming ginger and the umami punch of soy.
While silken tofu is served chilled, momen (medium-firm) tofu is often gently warmed, which brings out its sweet flavor. Warm tofu is popular comfort food during Japan’s cold winters.–Rika Yukimasa
WHAT IS MOMEN TOFU?
Momen (or medium) tofu, is firmer than silken tofu and richer in taste. It’s denser—it’s been pressed to extract more of the water moisture you’d find in softer tofu. This means that it’s a little coarser in texture, but also richer in nutrients, than silken tofu. Because of its firm texture, momen tofu makes a better choice for any dish that is stirred or warmed. It’s also the best choice for any deep-fried tofu dish.
Warm Tofu With Soy Sauce, Ginger, and Scallion
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
- One (12-ounce) block momen (medium-firm) tofu cut into 8 cubes
- 1 tablespoon regular or low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon mirin
- 1 scallion minced
- Grated ginger to taste
- To a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the salt. Put the tofu cubes in the liquid and place over medium heat. When the water starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 7 minutes.
- Divvy the tofu between plates, drizzle the sauce over the tofu, scatter the scallion and ginger on top, and serve.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This is a perfect small meal and definitely a comfort food which I didn't have a name for. I've often made a cold version of this, based roughly on agedashi, but not warmed as this, gently in a saline bath. I included a piece of kombu, which does add umami (and a taste of the sea) to the tofu. I used half a block of medium-firm tofu (for two people, about half a package) and the full amount of saltwater + kombu, which covered the blocks for the simmering time. A half recipe of the soy & mirin sauce is easy to prep in a few minutes while the tofu is cooking.
This is such a delicate and simple preparation of warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion, where really good tofu definitely shines. In all honesty, I could make this with firm or extra firm and be almost as happy. My own version, based only on my imagination and a love for ginger, often is served on a bed of paper-thin cucumber and carrots or radishes, sometimes adding microplaned carrot to the ginger for flavor and color, but this recipe is pretty darn perfect!
This dish was surprisingly tasty! I had thought that it might be too sweet because of the amount of sugar but it wasn't. None of the ingredients took over the dish, they blended well together. I can see how this is a popular dish to have in Japan in the winter. I feel sorry for people that don't like tofu because of its texture (like my boyfriend) because they're missing out on some serious flavor with this warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion! More for me.
Honestly? My expectations were low when I read this recipe for warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion but I found the idea of comfort food appealing. Comfort food for me includes mac and cheese, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, or chicken pot pie. Tofu would never have made that list—until today.
The slow, gentle warming of tofu served with the delicate flavors of soy sauce and mirin combined with grated ginger and scallions transformed it into satisfying contentment. I added a side of shaved carrot—use a vegetable peeler to create sweeping curls. They add a nice crunch and pop of color.
I prepared the tofu as a light lunch entrée with four cubes for two people but it’d work well as an appetizer or first course using two cubes. Make sure you select a pan large enough for the eight cubes of tofu to fit in a single layer. Don’t stack them on top of each other.
This recipe for warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion represents tofu in its simplest state, not trying to be a substitute for anything, but existing as the ancient food that it is, with subtle but balanced seasoning. It probably won't convert the die-hard tofu haters, but if you— like me—love the stuff, this is a fine way to have it.
Momen tofu is what we in the U.S. just call "regular" tofu. Not silken. It has a slightly coarse texture. You need to procure good-quality tofu for this recipe because the seasoning is gentle and you'll actually be tasting the tofu. Ideally, freshly-made homemade tofu would be used here, and I did indeed make fresh tofu for this recipe, and it was delicious. But I also tried the recipe with commercial tofu in a major brand (Nasoya), because that would be what most people would use. While the homemade tofu really sings here, the commercial tofu worked surprisingly well. Just be careful with your commercial tofu and taste a pinch of it before cooking—it shouldn't be sour at all and should have a subtle sweetness. The simmer in salted water will help the flavor and firm up the texture just a tiny bit. If you want to try making your own tofu, this recipe is a great way to highlight fresh tofu and its sweet, mellow flavor.
I started in with the advantage that my tofu is made right here in Chicago, just blocks from home. This tofu is made fresh daily from a high-quality heirloom-seeded soybean, and it has a slightly sweet aftertaste right from the get-go. So, when the prelude to the recipe states the warming brings out the sweetness, my local tofu is already one step ahead!
This is a gentle and quiet dish, even with the zing of the ginger, and it's comforting as described. Because it's served warm and not hot, I feel it's more all-season than solely winter as noted; I'd happily eat this on a summer evening as part of a Japanese or Chinese meal. Several of these cubes could be served with rice or noodles as a light main course, adding a vegetable salad or side to enhance the visual, especially a green vegetable, such as cucumbers or spinach. A smashed cucumber salad would be lovely with this meal of warm tofu with soy sauce, ginger, and scallion. Other serving suggestions would be alongside vegetable tempura, stir-fried spinach, as a starter for a main dish of ramen, a side to the ramen, or a simple vegetable stir fry. It could be served before or with a meal of sushi as well.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a big tofu eater, and I sell tofu at farmer's markets for the aforementioned local tofu company. I'm also a tofu educator, in that I both demonstrate tofu at conferences, for example, and train new staff. I’m thrilled to add this to my tofu repertoire!
Originally published May 27, 2021