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Fish Paste Stuffed Tofu

Fish paste stuffed tofu is a Chinese home cooking classic that makes for an easy lunch or dinner. Simply mix fish paste with garlic, green onions, and white pepper. Smear onto tofu slices and pan fry. So good! Hot and savory. P.S. If you love this recipe, make sure to try our Pork Stuffed Tofu ^_^

Fish paste tofu, ready to eat.
Fish Paste Tofu, ready to eat.

Why This Recipe Works

Fish Paste Stuffed Tofu is super easy to make and very satisfying. We’ve been eating this dish since we were kids. My grandma used to make it for weeknight dinners to simple weekend lunches.

It’s full of flavor and feels like quite a special treat. Plus you get fish and tofu in one dish!

We purchase fresh fish paste from Chinatown, and then mix it with minced garlic, green onions, and white pepper. We also add a little sesame oil for flavor.

Then smear the fish paste onto slices of tofu. Pan fry both sides. Place and then top with soy sauce and sesame oil. Eat and enjoy! Best with a bowl of rice.

Fish paste in a container.
A container of fresh fish paste from Chinatown.

Fish Paste

Fish paste is exactly what it sounds like. It it a paste made out of fish. It’s a popular ingredient in many Chinese recipes (including our black pepper and garlic Fish Balls). Fish paste is typically made from a white fish, like pollack or tilapia.

The fresh fish is chopped and then blended/ground with arrowroot starch (or cornstarch). It’s lightly seasoned and whipped until it becomes a silky paste. And then it’s sold to you! Once you take a container of fish paste home, you can season it some more, scoop, and shape as needed for your specific dish.

We buy fresh fish paste in Chinatown. For many years, our go-to vendor had a stall at Oahu Market. My grandma stared going there in the 1980s! I would accompany her to buy fish paste by the pound. When I got older and grandma could no longer get to Chinatown on her own, I would get fish paste for the family. But then the owners retired in 2021.

For a while we didn’t have a fresh fish paste source in Hawaii. But then a meat vendor told us about another great vendor for fish paste located in Kekaulike Market. We have been going to that vendor ever since, and they are great! I don’t know the name of that vendor, but there’s only one vendor inside Kekaulike Market that sells fish paste.

They’re located near the back of the market and the fish paste is in a big tray behind glass counters. You purchase it by the pound. They have a $6.50/pound option and a $7.50/pound option. The $7.50/pound fish paste has a better “bounce” texture so that’s the one we get.

If you don’t have a fresh fish paste vendor at your local Chinatown, just find a big Chinese supermarket and they will likely carry fish paste (either in the refrigerated or frozen section). Fish paste is delicious and versatile.

Ingredients for fish paste tofu (tofu, fish paste, garlic, green onions, white pepper).
Ingredients for Fish Paste Tofu.

Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need:

Fish paste, garlic, and green onions in a container.
Adding garlic, green onions, and white pepper to the fish paste.

Step by Step Directions

Prepare tofu.
Drain and pat the tofu dry. Cut it in half lengthwise, then cut into 12 squares. Set aside on a plate.

Seasoning the fish paste.
Mixing all the ingredients into the fish paste.


Prepare fish paste.
Combine the fish paste, green onions, garlic cloves, white pepper, and sesame oil.

The sesame oil is optional but adds nice flavor and makes the fish paste more silky texture. Use a fork or chopsticks to mix until smooth.

Protip: Mix the fish paste in one direction to make it really smooth. We go clockwise but you can go in any direction as long as you keep mixing in that same direction.

Fish paste stuffed in the tofu, ready to be pan fried.
Pan fry tofu side first.

Smear fish paste on tofu.
Using a spoon, gently smear a spoonful (about 1 tablespoon) of the fish paste on the tofu. Repeat until you’ve done the same with all 12 pieces of tofu.

Protip: If you have extra time, make a shallow scoop (about 1 teaspoon) from the center of the tofu (as we do for this pork stuffed tofu recipe). This will help the fish paste “stick” better to the tofu slices and help it from sliding off when you cook.

Pan Fry.
Pan fry tofu side down for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, until the tofu is a golden brown color.

Pan frying the fish paste tofu.
Pan fry the tofu-side first, and then the fish paste side.

Pan fry the fish paste side.
Flip and pan fry the fish paste down for a few minutes until cooked through.

Serve, season, and eat.
Remove to a plate and serve hot! Top with more chopped green onions. Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over the whole dish to give it extra flavor. Eat and enjoy.

FAQs and Tips

How long does this dish keep?

2-3 days in the refrigerator.

How to reheat this?

Reheat the fish paste stuffed tofu in a small pan over medium heat. Pan fry both sides until the dish is warmed through.

What to pair with this dish?

There are many things! Sometimes we just eat it by itself as a hot and savory afternoon snack. Or for meals, we serve it alongside a big pot of jook / congee or plain rice.

To make this a really complete meal, serve with rice, a simple soup (like chicken broth or egg drop soup) and a vegetable dish like Garlic and Fish Sauce Ong Choy or Stir Fried Lettuce.

Fish paste, garlic, and green onions mixed together in a container.
Fish Paste Tofu, ready to eat.

Fish Paste Stuffed Tofu Recipe

See below and enjoy ^_^

Fish paste tofu, ready to eat.

Fish Paste Stuffed Tofu

Yield: 12 pieces stuffed tofu (about 3 servings)
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 21 minutes

Ahh fish paste stuffed tofu! This is a Chinese home cooking classic that makes for an easy lunch or dinner. Simply mix fish paste with garlic, green onions, and white pepper. Smear onto tofu slices and pan fry. So good! Hot and savory. P.S. If you love this recipe, make sure to try our Pork Stuffed Tofu recipe ^_^

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Drain and pat the tofu dry. Cut it in half lengthwise, then cut into 12 squares. Set aside on a plate.
  2. Combine the fish paste, green onions, garlic cloves, white pepper, and sesame oil (optional). Use a fork or chopsticks to mix until smooth. Make sure to mix it in one direction (we go clockwise but you can do any direction as long as you keep mixing in that same direction).
  3. Using a spoon, gently smear a spoonful (about 1 tablespoon) of the fish paste on the tofu. Repeat until you've done the same with all 12 pieces.
  4. Add a little oil to a pan and turn to medium heat. Slide each tofu piece into the pan with the tofu-side facing down. Pan fry for 4-5 minutes until the tofu is a nice golden brown color.
  5. Carefully flip over and pan fry the fish paste-side down for another 3-4 minutes until cooked through.
  6. Remove to a plate and serve hot! Top with more chopped green onions if you'd like. We also like to drizzle a little soy sauce and sesame oil over the whole dish to give it extra flavor. Eat and enjoy.

Notes

  • The sesame oil in Step #2 is optional. We like to add it because it adds more flavor to the fish paste and also gives the fish paste a more silky/smooth texture.
  • If you have extra time, make a very shallow scoop (about 1 teaspoon) from the center of the tofu (like we do in this pork stuffed tofu recipe). This will help the fish paste better "stick" to the tofu slices.

Joanne

Sunday 22nd of May 2022

Thank you for the quick and easy Chicken Long Rice recipe. It was the hit of our family dinner. There was an actual “battle” for the leftovers.

Alan

Tuesday 8th of March 2022

I love this dish!! I would add chopped water chestnuts too! And I would stuff the tofu, either with the fishcake or with pork hash -- What I call "stuffed tofu" are some of my favorite Cantonese comfort foods. In the old days, stuffed tofu, either with fishcake or with pork hash, was always on our ordering rotation whenever we went out to eat Chinese food. Also in the good old days, I used to go spear fishing a lot down Ewa beach way and would always spear at least 4-6 good size awa-awa every time (in those days, there were a lot of awa-awa schools that always swam by you as you were spear fishing). I would take them home, leave them in the fridge for a few days to "break down", then scrape all the meat off the skin and bones with a spoon. Then I would freeze the fish for whenever we wanted to make something with fishcake. Another favorite fishcake recipe of mine was to essentially use the same fishcake recipe, but roll the fishcake into a thin egg omelet, then steam it in my bamboo steamer -- super ono!! Those were the days.

Kathy

Wednesday 9th of March 2022

Hi Alan! Ooo adding water chestnuts is such a good idea, I never though about that! The extra crunch must be so tasty. And the idea of rolling into omelet and steaming...wow! Love how you made your own fishcakes, that sounds delicious :) - Kathy

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