Tofu An Affordable Staple That Is Even More Versatile as Paste

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Tofu hummus, foreground, and asparagus and broad beans with mashed tofu

Standard tofu dishes such as hiyayakko cold tofu and ground meat mabo dofu are, of course, good ways to use the high-protein, low-calorie ingredient, but cookery specialist Maiko Shindo recommends making tofu into a paste as it can be conveniently used in a variety of dishes.

The low price of tofu remains stable. According to a retail price survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry, the price of 1 kilogram of tofu in Tokyo’s 23 wards was ¥267 in 2014 and ¥241 in 2021. Tofu is the kind of food that can give household budgets suffering from high prices some relief.

“Tofu is a food we are accustomed to, and it is also affordable. It’s a versatile ingredient that goes well with all kinds of seasonings,” Shindo said. Tofu paste is a way to make use of these advantages.

It should be noted that tofu needs to be thoroughly drained before using it.

Tofu paste

Ingredients (4 servings)

  • 1 block momen firm tofu (350 grams)
  • 2 tbsp white sesame paste

  • Directions:

    1. Place a rack covered with paper towels on a tray. Place the tofu on the rack and wrap it in the paper towels. Put a weight of about 1 kilogram on top of the tofu, making sure the weight is evenly distributed. Allow the tofu to sit for six to eight hours until its thickness is reduced to two-thirds to a half.

    The Yomiuri Shimbun
    Tofu is wrapped in paper towels and placed on a rack overnight.

    2. Add white sesame paste to the drained tofu and mix with a mortar and pestle or in another container. They can also be mixed in a food processor or by using a whisk and bowl.

    The Yomiuri Shimbun
    Mix tofu and sesame paste with a mortar and pestle.

    Since tofu paste easily goes bad, use it within a day. You can keep the tofu’s texture by roughly crushing it by hand. “You can make spicy tofu paste by using nam pla fish sauce instead of white sesame paste, or Chinese-style paste with sesame oil,” Shindo said.

    Using the paste, Shindo has cooked two dishes that can either be side dishes or snacks.

    Asparagus and broad beans with mashed tofu beautifully sets off the green color of the spring vegetables against the white tofu. It is a dish in which you can enjoy the pleasant combination of the paste’s fluffy texture and the vegetable’s crispness.

    Asparagus with mashed tofu

    Ingredients (2 servings)

    • Half of tofu paste (1/2 tofu block)
    • 2 tsp light soy sauce
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • Salt as desired
    • 2 asparagus spears
    • 3 broad bean pods

    • Directions:

      1. Mix the tofu paste with soy sauce and sugar.

      2. Remove broad beans from their long pods. Boil the asparagus and the broad beans in salted water until they turn a vivid green but retain their natural textures. Drain and cool.

      3. Cut the asparagus into small pieces. Peel the beans and mix with seasoned tofu paste. Taste, and season with salt as needed.

      Shindo also shares her recipe for tofu hummus, which is based on a traditional Middle Eastern dish. Unlike traditional hummus, which is made with boiled chickpeas, this dish has a familiar flavor.

      Tofu hummus

      Ingredients (2 servings)

      • Half of tofu paste (1/2 tofu block)
      • 1 clove garlic
      • 1 1/2 to 2 tbsp miso
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 eggplant
      • Cumin seeds, papad and coriander as desired

      • Directions:

        1. Blend the tofu paste with miso, olive oil and grated garlic in a food processor until smooth.

        2. Serve the hummus with sliced and grilled eggplant and papad, or Indian bean crackers. Season with coriander, cumin seeds and olive oil as desired.

        The flavor and aroma of garlic and cumin added to the taste of miso make this dish a kind of fusion between washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine, and other Asian foods. It can be served with bread or crackers too.