Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce and Korean Cucumber Salad

I have been meaning to try out this recipe for awhile.  It wasn't exciting enough to make the list of "must try" recipes, but I bookmarked it a year or two ago for a nebulous future (vegetarian) dinner.  It was something along the lines of an experiment because we have never cooked soft tofu before.  Somehow we always pick out recipes that call for firm tofu.  And this recipe seemed so perfectly simple that it was hard to resist.  Who doesn't love the idea of throwing something in a pot and forgetting about it for awhile?  And by awhile, I mean 5-10 minutes.  According to the recipe you can keep the tofu warm in the simmering water over very low heat for up to 4 hours, so if you wanted to forget it for a few hours, that is an option too.  Either way, simmering the tofu gave it a really nice texture.  I expected it to make the tofu softer and mushier, but instead it seemed to firm it up a little.  It was still definitely soft tofu, but it almost felt like it retained its shape a little better than soft tofu generally does due to the bath in simmering water.  You drizzle the spicy garlic sauce over the warm tofu and voila.  The spicy garlic sauce is really potent and it gave the tofu a lot more flavor than I expected, especially considering the tofu was simply simmered in water without any seasonings.  There wasn't even any salt in there.  Actually, I found the sauce to be a little too salty - perhaps I should have used a low sodium soy sauce or simply cut back on the amount of soy sauce a little.  We did leave the sauce out on the counter for a few hours, which might very well have contributed to the overall saltiness.  Oops.  Our bad.  But it was a very satisfying vegetarian main course.  We served the tofu with a Korean cucumber salad that we found in our cookbook Korean Kitchen and some white rice.  The cucumber salad was nice and fresh and spicy, all at the same time.  It was a really nice side for the tofu and I think it would be a nice accompaniment to any Korean meal.

Recipes after the jump!

Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce
March 2009

1 (14-to 18-ounces) package soft tofu (not silken)
1 tsp chopped garlic (we used an entire clove, so more like 2 tsp and I would recommend doing the same)
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with side of a heavy knife
3 tbsp soy sauce (I would probably cut it back to 2 tbsp in the future, or use low sodium soy)
1 tbsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 tsp sugar

Carefully rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat.

Meanwhile, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with remaining ingredients (except tofu).

Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a small plate. Spoon some sauce over tofu and serve warm. Serve remaining sauce on the side. 

Cucumber Salad (Oee Namul Muchim)
The Korean Kitchen
By Copeland Marks

3 Kirby cucumbers (we used 1 English cucumber)
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
1 tsp hot red chili powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

Trim both ends of the cucumbers and cut off 2 narrow strips of skin from each to produce a design.  Slice the cucumbers thin, diagonally.  Mix all of the ingredients together and toss well.  

Serve cold or at room temperature.

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