Recipe adapted from: Collective wisdom of Japanese home cooks on http://www.cookpad.com
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Place the pan over medium heat and simmer, while constantly stirring with spatula.
- 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!).
- 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.
- 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!).
- Leave them for an hour until it is completely set and cold.
- 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).