Rather Desperate Goma Dofu (Sesame Tofu)

Recipe adapted from: Collective wisdom of Japanese home cooks on http://www.cookpad.com

rather desperate goma dofu

Where exactly did March go?  It has been all blur with late nights and working weekends, and the next thing I knew was that I needed to do my tax. Except that I do recall acknowledging that I now reached the new low as I was swallowing a left-over bagel from company breakfast for lunch. At 4PM.

So when one of my co-workers asked me if I knew a good Japanese restaurant to take her out-of-town friends to, I realized I haven’t been to any of the places I was recommending for a while. However, the thought of fancy Japanese restaurants hit me with a sudden craving:

Goma dofu. Must. Eat. Goma dofu.

Rich, nutty and delicately sweet, goma dofu (sesame tofu) is actually not tofu in a sense that it is not “bean curd”. It is sesame crushed into a paste, mixed with water and thickened by kuzu starch, then molded to look like tofu. Intense sesame flavor and creamy texture always leave me wanting more, but I never attempted to make it myself since the authentic production method – still strictly followed at zen temples where it was originated – sounds incredibly labor intensive. And obviously, now is not a good time for serious culinary experiments.

But this is a kind of emergency, I thought. If it is basically made of sesame paste and starch that thickens it – Wouldn’t my pantry staples like tahini and corn starch do?

With the plan of attack on hand, there is only one place a Japanese woman should head to when she wants to know how to cook something: http://www.cookpad.com. It is THE cooking site among Japanese with a massive collection of recipes all posted by its registered users. You will find a recipe from a toast to beef bourguignon, and anything and everything in between. There I typed “goma dofu” and hit search… Voila! 289 entries. Perfect.

Using various recipes I found on cookpad.com as a reference, I improvised my version of goma dofu with tahini as a shortcut for grinding sesame as well as a reasonable substitute for costly and hard-to-find neri-goma (Japanese sesame paste). Also I added soy milk to help corn starch achieve smooth texture kuzu would have provided.

This was supposed to be a quick and dirty knock-off that would be my secret guilty pleasure. To my own surprise, however, it turned out beautifully, almost looking as good as ones I had at restaurants – And OMG it was so absolutely delicious that it completely satisfied my urge and sent me straight to the sesame Nirvana (if there is one – I think there is, and I was in it). Now I am sort of feeling bad for those monks, who painstakingly grind sesame seeds using mortar and pestle, and knead sticky, heavy dough in a big pot to serve goma dofu for the temple’s guests, not even for themselves. Well, at least – If that won’t give you a good Karma, and I don’t know what will.

RECIPE (2 Servings)


  • 2 tablespoon tahini
  • 1.5 tablespoon corn starch
  • 100 ml soy milk
  • 150 ml filtered water


  1. Make sure to mix tahini well before using so you won’t end up using the surface oil. Mix all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Whisk until everything is well blended.
  2. Wet the inside of molds you are planning to use. I used 8-mounce round ramekin but you can use a square container if you go for more “tofu”-like look.
  3. Also prepare a bigger container that can accommodate the molds and deep enough so it can be filled with ice water to cool them once they are done.
  4. Place the pan over medium heat and simmer, while constantly stirring with spatula.
  5. Initially the mixture is watery but keep stirring. In about 5 minutes, it suddenly starts to thicken (This part is a kind of fun – Almost like a science project!).
  6. Continue to stir the thicken mixture for another 5 minutes. Make sure you are stirring constantly from the bottom so it prevents it from sticking to the pan.
  7. Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into 2 molds equally. Place the molds in the bigger container with ice water to cool them (do not get ice water in the molds!).
  8. Leave them for an hour until it is completely set and cold.
  9. Unmold and cut them up if necessary. Serve with wasabi and shoyu, or wasabi and mentsuyu (Japanese soup base you can buy at Asian supermarket – It is soy sauce base with dashi, and is sweeter with mirin).

2 thoughts on “Rather Desperate Goma Dofu (Sesame Tofu)

    1. snowcone Post author

      I know – But it really did come out like a real one, I surprised myself 🙂 Sooo great to have a fellow cookpad lover, thank you for your comment!!


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