Cubes of silken tofu and wood ear mushrooms are braised in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, mirin, Sriracha and spices. This soy braised tofu and wood ears was inspired by the eternally popular spicy beef stew a la House of Kimchi.
Simple. Tasty. Effortless to make. You’ll need basic Japanese ingredients though to pull this through.
The prep time is cut down tremendously if you can get your hands on fresh wood ears. If you have to resort to dried, you’ll need to soak them for at least 20 minutes before cooking.
I cooked this dish for Sam but since a whole cake of tofu would have been too much for her for a single meal (she doesn’t like eating the same dish for two or more consecutive meals), I set aside a portion for her and, the rest, Speedy and I feasted on.
The cooking procedure is easy. Measure the wet ingredients and spices, dump into a shallow pan and boil for about two minutes. You want to reduce the sauce a bit to get concentrated flavors.
Then, you drop in the silken tofu cubes in a single layer and scatter the wood ears on top. Lower the heat, cover the pan and braise for five minutes.
For best results, leave the tofu and wood ears soaking in the sauce for another 10 minutes after you turn off the heat. The tofu and wood ears, neutral in flavor by themselves, will have more time to soak up the flavors in the sauce. Drizzle in sesame seed oil, sprinkle in sliced scallions and toasted sesame seeds, and serve.
This soy braised tofu and wood ears may be served hot, warm or at room temperature.
Does it have to be silken tofu? Can’t it be a firm variety? You may use firm tofu. But…
Personally, when I use firm tofu, I prefer to fry it first before tossing into the sauce. If you want to substitute firm tofu in this dish, I recommend frying. That will add more cooking steps and lengthen the cooking time, but the result will be worth it.
Soy Braised Tofu and Wood Ears
- 1 300-gram cake silken tofu
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup dried wood ears soaked in warm water for 20 minutes
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1 generous splash rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 6 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame seed oil
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced scallions
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Drain the tofu and cut into two-inch cubes. Set aside.
Drain the wood ears, cut off the tough portions and discard (see how). Dice the remaining gelatinous portions.
Pour the soy sauce, mirin and rice wine vinegar into a wide shallow pan. If you want more sauce, add 1/4 cup well-seasoned vegetable broth. Stir in the sugar. Add the peppercorns, bay leaf, grated garlic and ginger. Heat and bring to the boil. Let boil, uncovered, for two to three minutes, or until slightly reduced. Stir in the Sriracha.
Drop in the tofu cubes in a single layer. Scatter the wood ears over the tofu.
Cover the pan, lower the heat and braise the tofu and wood ears for five minutes. Turn off the heat. Leave the tofu and wood ears in the sauce for another 10 minutes.
Drizzle the sesame seed oil over the tofu and wood ears. Sprinkle in the scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
Serve the soy braised tofu and wood ears hot, warm or at room temperature.