Spicy Soft Tofu

This is fast and easy and it only takes a few minutes.


  • 2 containers of soft tofu (or use 1 and modify the recipe)
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1 small-diced onion
  • 1-2 T spicy and oily sauce (see note below)
  • 1 large slice of fresh ginger (to be removed at the end) or shredded ginger (you can use a cheese grater) if you want to leave it in the dish.
  • 2-3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 t rice vinegar
  • 1 t soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame oil
  • Salt, pepper, and sugar by the truckload.
  • I actually own and use MSG in this recipe if I'm feeling feisty (see below).

Important You don't need to have all these ingredients to make the tofu. As long as you have the tofu and the sauce, you're good to go. The more of the other flavorings you have, the better. The goal here is a salty, spicy tofu with no annoying vegetables to muck it up. Save the carrots for another dish!


  1. Take the entire block of tofu and squeeze gently through a cheesecloth to eliminate some of the water. It's ok if the tofu breaks up. Just let it do its thing. By the end of your cooking experience, the state of the tofu will be partly chunky, partly crumbly goo. It will not be discrete blocks.
  2. Saute the sauce and ginger in vegetable oil in a wok.
  3. Add garlic and regular onion; cook until soft.
  4. Add the tofu, salt, sugar, and—if you're daring, the MSG.
  5. Mix around, tasting periodically. Add more salt and sugar as appropriate. Typically, tofu requires a lot more sugar than you think. So go nuts.
  6. Towards the end, add the vinegar and soy sauce.
  7. When you're just about done, add the sesame oil and the green onion. Then take one last taste. Is it salty enough? Really?
  8. Remove the slice of ginger.
  9. The final product should be WET (but not soupy). If it isn't, add a little more oil, chicken stock, water, what have you.

Meat Variation

If I were not a vegetarian, I would probably add ground pork or something. I have no idea how one would prepare such a thing.

Spicy Oily Sauce

You can find the best of these at Asian markets. Fresh chili should be the main ingredient. Look for something that has an oil base. You basically want to treat this almost as your cooking oil, although you'll need to add a bit more regular oil. Look for warning labels like "so spicy you may traumatize your stomach lining." Fermented black bean as a secondary ingredient can enrich the flavor. The one I am currently using has 5 chili peppers on the label to indicate its hotness rating. It says "Super Hot" and lives up to the claim. The ingredients in order are fresh chili, fermented black bean, sesame oil, sugar, salt, and amino acid. You decide how much to add to the tofu based on the strength of the sauce and on your fortitude.

Is MSG a Great Evil?

According to this article, not really: "virtually all studies since then confirm that monosodium glutamate in normal concentrations has no effect on the overwhelming majority of people." That said, there are people who are sensitive to it in the way that some people are lactose intolerant. Typically they report feeling high, sweaty, etc. when they eat it. I have definitely ODed on MSG while in China (this involves eating way more MSG than you can probably imagine). The result is unprecedented thirst and rowdy dreams. One benefit of the MSG is that you don't have to use as much salt.

New York Times
Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor
Published: March 5, 2008
If you live in the United States and like spicy tuna rolls, Puerto Rican roast pork or Thai noodles, there is a good chance you are eating, and enjoying, MSG.

Read more MSG anecdotes.




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