This is a chilled tofu dish topped with hot (almost sizzling!) sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, and furikake. It's refreshing and easy to make. Our go-to lazy lunch.
Ready to eat! Cold tofu, hot sesame oil, soy sauce, green onions, and furikake.
The "official" name for this dish is Sesame Soy Sauce Tofu. But I just call it Shann's Tofu.
Shann and I grew up together in Honolulu, and were roommates in NYC for several years. We cooked a lot. Our first apartment was on the Lower East Side. It was a 5th floor walk-up. The rental agent billed it as a 2-bedroom, but it was really a studio cut into two super tiny "bedrooms."
We made lots of Spam musubi and all kinds of fried rice in that apartment. (It's nice when you don't have to explain to your roommate why a rice cooker is the most important piece of kitchen equipment, and why care packages from home include multiple bags of li hing mui and cans of Spam.) We also made this tofu dish. We made it most often in the summer. We had no air conditioning so this tofu was our ideal cool down method.
This dish is somewhere between Japanese and Chinese with a good dose of local style! That's how we do it in Hawaii.
Cut the tofu into small cubes, try to keep the shape of the tofu brick together (step 1 of the recipe below)
There are many kinds of local families in Hawaii. There are first generation local families, and there are families who have been in Hawaii for many generations. There are neat differences between Chinese, local Chinese, and super local Chinese. You see this difference (and it is amazing that we have this variety) mostly in the food.
Picture a scale with Chinese (or Japanese, Korean, Filipino) on one end, and Local on the other end. If you're first generation, the food you cook at home leans more on the Chinese side of the scale. With each additional generation, (eg. second, third, or fourth generation), the Chinese food made at home leans more and more in the local direction.
What is the local direction? It's like a merge of the Chinese food with all other types of Asian food. It's also a bit sweeter in taste ^_^ One example is how char siu bao is considered Chinese and manapua is considered local. Manapua is actually the Hawaii/local-ized version of char siu bao. Everyone embraces both because we really love to eat in Hawaii.
I hope that makes sense. Main point is that it's all good food.
This tofu is a dish that Shann (who is local Chinese-Japanese) made growing up. Then it was a dish that Shann and I made together in NYC. And now it's a dish that my husband and I make together.
Pouring on the hot sesame oil (step 3 of the recipe below)
Hot Sesame Oil Tofu
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All you need to do is cut a block of soft tofu into small cubes (try to maintain the full rectangular shape of the tofu if possible, but ok if not). Then sprinkle chopped green onions all over the top of the tofu.
Next, heat sesame oil in a pan over medium heat. Heat it until it gets nutty and good smelling. Just before the oil starts to smoke, turn off the heat and immediately pour the oil over the tofu and green onions. It should make a gentle and satisfying "sizzle" sound. That's how you know you got the oil hot enough.
If you don't hear the sizzle that means the sesame oil wasn't hot enough (but it's ok, you can still eat the dish, just make sure to go hotter next time).
How To Eat Hot Sesame Oil Tofu
It's an easy, low effort dish that is super refreshing. When I eat alone, all I need is a bowl of hot rice to make this a complete meal. Sometimes I serve it as a side dish, maybe with fried saimin or chicken long rice. It's also good side dish with rice and chicken adobo! Anything goes.
I already talked about how much we love tofu in Hawaii. From local tofu factories, to tofu poke, fried tofu, and almond tofu float, and tofu this and that. Tofu can do no wrong! Especially when its fresh local Hawaii tofu.
Kadoya sesame oil - this it the brand we use at home
Why Heat The Sesame Oil?
Heating the sesame oil is the most important part of this recipe. The tofu is cold, but the hot sesame oil "cooks" it a tiny, tiny bit (that's the quiet sizzle sound you hear then when the oil hits the tofu).
Sesame oil is always good, but it really hits peak potential when it's hot. A little goes a long way and flavors the entire dish. Make sure you heat it hot enough (turn off heat just before it starts to smoke), but don't burn the oil.
My Sesame Oil Pick:
Firm Or Soft Tofu?
Make sure you use soft tofu for this recipe (no firm tofu allowed for this recipe). The soft silken texture is what really makes this dish. Save the firm tofu for this pan fried tofu dish (which also happens to use sesame oil and soy sauce).
How To Cut Tofu
You can cut the tofu big or small cubes depending on your preference. I like smaller cubes so that there's more exposed surface area for the tofu to soak up the sesame oil-soy sauce "dressing".
I cut the tofu into three "levels." Then I cut the short side into four strips, and the long side into six strips. You get 24 cubes on each level. With three levels, there should be 72 cubes total. But do it however you like! There is no wrong way.
Half devoured! Let the tofu soak in all that sauce. So good with rice.
Hot Sesame Oil Tofu Recipe
I wrote down the recipe in printable format below. Let me know if you have questions (can leave in comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org). Enjoy, enjoy ^_^
- Remove the tofu from the package. Rinse and drain. Do your best to maintain the rectangular tofu brick shape and cut the tofu into small blocks. (I first cut the tofu into three "floors", then four cuts across the short side, and six cuts on the long side).
- Top the tofu with the chopped green onions.
- Heat a small pan to medium heat. Add the sesame oil and heat until the oil gets super fragrant and nutty. Just as it begins to smoke (about 1-2 minutes), turn off heat, and quickly pour the hot sesame oil over the tofu. It should make a slight smoke/sizzling sound.
- Top with the furikake and soy sauce. Eat with rice!