Scrambled Tofu is a delicious vegetarian side dish. Or perhaps you could call it a warm salad. It is a typical home cooking dish and quite simple to make. The colour combination of the ingredients is wonderful and it goes so well with rice.
The dish is called ‘iri dofu’ (炒り豆腐) in Japanese. The word ‘iri’ (炒り) means stir fry and ‘dofu’ (豆腐) means tofu. The sound of the word ‘tofu’ changes when preceded by another word.
So, ‘scrambled tofu’ is not quite a direct translation of ‘iri dofu’ but broken tofu looks just like a white scrambled egg and I like to call it scrambled tofu instead of stir fried tofu. When you hear ‘stir fried’ you immediately imagine oily stir fry but scrambled tofu is not oily at all.
This is a very healthy side dish if you think about it. Tofu, carrot, shiitake mushrooms and snow peas are lightly sautéed with a small amount of sesame oil and cooked in a sauce consisting of shiitake dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar. What else can you ask for?
There are variations to the ingredients but carrot and shiitake mushrooms appear to always be included, and tofu of course. I used snow peas for green but you can substitute them with chopped beans or green peas. Instead of cooking green vegetables, you could garnish the dish with chopped shallots (scallions) to add the colour.
Some recipes add meat and/or egg but I would like it to be 100% vegetarian. Hence, I used the liquid from the rehydrated dried shiitake mushrooms, rather than the usual dashi stock from bonito flakes. But you can use normal dashi stock if you like.
WHICH TOFU TO USE?
There are all kinds of tofu sold at supermarkets and Asian grocery stores. They come in differing degrees of firmness and it is sometimes very confusing. To name a few: Silken Tofu, Silken Firm Tofu, Firm Tofu, Hard Tofu and Extra Firm Tofu. The variation between each is really the amount of water in the tofu. The less water it has, the firmer it gets.
I used a pack of firm tofu, which is harder than silken tofu but softer than hard tofu. In your country, you may find a pack called ‘regular tofu’ or ‘momen tofu’. Any of these tofu are suitable for this dish.
Silken tofu is not suitable as it is too soft and the tofu will break down into very small pieces when sautéed. Hard tofu or extra hard tofu is too firm to gently break down while sautéing. Also, the texture of hard tofu lacks softness when cooked.
The ideal scrambled tofu should have a mixture of different size tofu pieces ranging from about 1.5 – 2cm (½ – ¾”) pieces to tiny bits that are less than half of the larger pieces. In addition to this, you need to experience the soft tofu texture when you put it into your mouth. Firm tofu is perfect for this.
Before cooking the ingredients, the tofu has to be prepared for sautéing. You need to break up a block of tofu and blanch it beforehand. This process is important as you can reduce the water within the tofu, which makes it firmer and suitable for sautéing. After blanching, drain well and use kitchen paper to gently press down and squeeze the moisture out (see the bottom photo above).
Starting with carrots, which take the longest to cook, sauté the vegetables in stages. Then add tofu, breaking into smaller pieces. I indicated that ideal scrambled tofu should have a mixture of different size tofu pieces. but this is my preference. The size of the tofu pieces is something you need to try and get the idea of because each person has a different opinion about the best-looking dish. Some people like large chunks of tofu, some might like small pieces.
Scrambled tofu goes so well with rice. When I have a meal with grilled fish, I occasionally serve this as a side along with pickled vegetables, rice and miso soup. Then it becomes a perfect Japanese breakfast! (Well, to many people’s surprise, I often eat something like this for breakfast.)
Occasionally, I eat just scrambled tofu for dinner. I have a big breakfast and good sized lunch so I need a light meal at night. In this case, the dish becomes a kind of nibbles to go with my favourite wine. It’s a strange combination of Japanese and Western but anything delicious will do for me. To tell you the truth, I use a spoon to eat it.
Iri dofu is a simple yet very tasty dish and the ingredients are not difficult to get. I hope you try this.
- 1 pack firm tofu (note 1)
- 100 g carrot , cut into matchsticks, 3cm long, 2mm wide
- 30 g snow peas , diagonally cut into 3 cm long, 3mm wide pieces
- 4-5 dried shiitake mushrooms rehydrated in water (reserve water), thinly sliced (note 2)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp shiitake dashi stock (reserved rehydrated shiitake liquid)
- 1½ tbsp light soy sauce (note 3)
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp sugar
Boil water in a saucepan large enough to blanch tofu. Break tofu into several large pieces and add them to the boiling water. Boil for 1 minute, then drain well using a sieve.
When slightly cooled down, cover the tofu in the sieve with kitchen paper and press down gently to squeeze some water out, then cool.
Heat sesame oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add carrot and sauté for 1 minute.
Add shiitake mushrooms and sauté for 30 seconds, then add snow peas. Mix well for another 30 seconds.
Add tofu and mix, breaking large pieces into smaller sizes. Do not make pieces too small as it will naturally break further while stirring. About the tip of a thumbnail would be a good size.
Add the Flavouring ingredients and reduce heat to medium low.
Cook for 3-4 minutes (note 4) until the sauce is almost evaporated. While cooking, gently mix a couple of times using a spatula so that the flavour will coat the ingredients evenly.
Turn the heat off. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
1. My firm tofu in a pack was 300g.
2. Depending on the size of shiitake, the volume of rehydrated shiitake varies. I used about a half cup of sliced rehydrated shiitake.
The best way to rehydrate dried shiitake mushrooms is to leave them in water overnight in the fridge. This is the best way to get umami out of shiitake.
3. If you don’t have light soy sauce, use normal soy sauce, e.g. Kikkoman, Yamasa, Higashimaru brands. The colour of the tofu wil be slightly darker. Do not use dark soy sauce.
4. The time taken to evaporate the sauce depends on the surface area of the saucepan and the heat.