Smooth and Spicy Tofu Spread

涼拌豆腐

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yields 1¾ cups , enough to serve

    4–8

    as part of a cold buffet or picnic .

Appears in

Mashing chilled tofu with a light dressing of soy, sesame oil, and scallions is a common way to beat the heat in north China. This recipe takes the idea a few steps farther West, whipping the tofu to a thick purée in a food processor and seasoning it with a spicy blend of fresh vegetables. The result is a rich, flavorful spread, ideal with raw vegetables, crackers, or pita bread, and very much to contemporary Western tastes.

  • For the purée to be perfectly thick, look for the firm variety of Chinese tofu. If you cannot find it, buy three cakes (12 ounces) of softer tofu, and weight them.
  • This is an excellent way to break in a food processor. The recipe utilizes all of the blades and any slicing failures go into the purée. It is also a good choice for entertaining. Everything may be done in advance, and the finished platter made to look like a colorful, blooming flower.

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Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh white tofu, firm Chinese style best (equal to 2 cakes, 3 inches square and 1 inch thick)

Vegetables for the purée

  • 6 large,firm red radishes, trimmed
  • 1 medium carrot, trimmed and peeled
  • 2 medium whole scallions, cut into 1½-inch lengths
  • 1 small, overripe avocado

Seasonings

  • 2 teaspoons thin (regular) soy sauce, or teaspoons mushroom soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese or Japanese sesame oil
  • ¼–½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • teaspoon sugar
  • ⅛–¼ teaspoon unseasoned Chinese or Japanese rice vinegar
  • ⅛–¼ teaspoon hot chili oil
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Vegetable dippers (optional)

  • 1 large, very firm cucumber, seedless variety preferred
  • 2–3 thick carrots, trimmed and peeled

Method

Preparations

Drain or weight the tofu as described in TECHNIQUE NOTES. When firm and no longer watery, cut into large cubes if you have not already done so.

Slice the radishes into coins ⅛ inch thick, in a food processor or by hand. Put aside some large pretty slices to rim the purée and several smaller coins to garnish the top.

Shred the single carrot. Put about 10 pretty shreds aside for a garnish, along with several green scallion lengths.

Mash the avocado with a spoon until smooth.

Whipping the purée

Mince the remaining radishes, carrots, and scallions in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife, scraping down as necessary until coarse. Add the tofu and avocado, then process until smooth and thick, 15–30 seconds. Add the seasonings, process well to combine, then, taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Tofu differs widely in taste, so play with the seasonings to get a taste you like. Be cautious about adding too much liquid, lest you spoil the thickness of the purée. If you do not have a food processor, mince the vegetables by hand, then whip and season the purée in a blender as described above.

Slicing the vegetable dippers

Trim the cucumber and peel if needed. Cut into rounds between ⅛ and ¼ inch thick, in the food processor or by hand.

Cut the carrots on the diagonal into thin oblong coins, about 2 inches long and ⅛ inch thick. To dramatize their color, blanch in boiling unsalted water 5 seconds, drain and chill promptly in ice water, then pat dry.

Everything up to this point may be done up to a day in advance and refrigerated. Store the garnishes and the vegetable dippers wrapped separately in lightly misted plastic bags. Seal the tofu airtight, with a piece of plastic wrap pressed directly on the surface.

Serving the spread

For a simple presentation, mound the purée in a bowl of contrasting color and garnish with scallion rings. Serve with a platter of vegetable dippers, unsalted crackers, or triangles of toasted pita bread, and invite everyone to help themselves.

For use as a delicious, portable sandwich, stuff the spread inside a round of pita bread and add some fresh vegetables for crunch.

Or, for those who like to decorate, mound the tofu in the center of a large platter and smooth the top of the purée with a spatula. Rim the purée with fresh vegetables, including the reserved radish coins, or unsalted crackers, or both. Garnish the top of the tofu with a pretty floral mosaic, pressing on overlapping trios of radish coins to make “plum bossoms,” frilled scallions to make “branches”, scallion rings to form “leaves,” and dots and shreds of carrot to form “stems,” “pistils,” or decorative swirls around the blossoms.

Leftover spread keeps well 2–3 days, refrigerated and tightly sealed. If the purée becomes watery, drain and reprocess until thick.

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