Asian Braised Tofu

Braised tofu.  For some reason, the very concept terrified me.  In fact, despite doing some very good braised dishes in my life (if I do say so myself), the whole technique seems exoAsian Braised Tofutic and difficult.

Then again, sometimes you have a meal (like the Fire Bird from Blue Koi made with braised tofu instead of duck) that forces your hand and suddenly you find yourself trying a dish you never thought you would.  Like

Asian Braised Tofu

… and finding it’s actually really easy.


For those who are not familiar with braising, it’s a wet cooking method (meaning there’s a lot of liquid).  The most often used wet cooking method is boiling where food is completely submerged in liquid.  This tends to be a harsh cooking method and is good for leeching starches and flavor compounds out of the food.

On the other hand, when braising, the food is usually browned first and then covered halfway in a flavorful cooking liquid.  Having one half of the food (usually meat) uncovered allows for different flavors to develop while the food absorbs flavors from the cooking liquid.

It’s a great technique for tougher cuts of meat or for slow cooking dark meat chicken.

Braising Tofu

However, in this case, I decided I was going to braise tofu.  Because tofu is essentially a soft protein, I knew that cooking it for a long time was going to result in a big soy mess.  So I did three things:

  • Used firm or exra firm tofu
  • Precooked the tofu
  • Cut down the cooking time for the tofu

Ready for the recipe?

This recipe is very easy.  The one thing to remember is that when you are cooking the tofu, cook it in small batches.  Using two skillets can speed this process.

Asian Braised Tofu

You will need:

  • 1 block of tofu
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 green onions, whites sliced and greens cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 carrot, cut into coins
  • 1/2 cup broth
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce*
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fermented black bean paste**
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot

* You can substitute an extra tablespoon of tamari for the dark soy sauce
** You can’t substitute this with ANYTHING 🙂  Look for it at an Asian market or order at KOA Mart.

Cut the block into two halves lengthwise.  Take each half in your hand and gently squeeze to get some the water out of it.

Cut each half into 1 1/2 inch blocks then cut those into 1/4 inch thick rectangles.  Finally, cut each rectangle into two triangles.  Okay, the hard part is done.  I swear.

Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a large skillet over a medium-high flame.  When hot, saute half the tofu 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove from the skillet.  Add two more tablespoons of olive oil, wait for it to get hot, and then saute the other half.

Put the final 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the skillet and let it get hot.  Then add the green onion whites, onions, celery, carrots, and a healthy pinch of salt and cook until the carrots soften.  Then add the broth, tamari, soy sauce, sugar, and black bean paste.  Stir well.

Let the sauce come to a boil and then add the tofu.  Let the tofu cook 5-6 minutes, turning once.  Mix the arrowroot with water to form a slurry and add it and the green parts of the green onions into the sauce.   Stir until the sauce thickens.

Serve on top of rice and enjoy!


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