Braised Tofu in Miso Broth
To make this dish, fried tofu is braised (cooked with a small amount of liquid) in miso broth. The recipe is ultra-simple and very flavorful. You could accompany this dish with sautéed Asian vegetables such as bok choy, choy sum, Chinese mustard greens or Chinese cabbage and steamed white jasmine rice.
You can also make use of the leftover miso broth. If you want to serve it as a soup with vegetables, add about 1 cup of boiling water to the broth to adjust the seasoning. What you'll end up with is a typical Vietnamese dinner meal: a serving of tofu and/or meat, steamed jasmine rice and soup on the side.
Yields: 4 servings1 (12-ounce) package firm tofu
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 (2-inch) chunk fresh ginger
2 Fuji apples, quartered
2-½ to 3 tablespoons white miso paste
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (1-inch) chunk rock sugar (about 1 ounce), or granulated sugar, depending on the sweetness of the apples
3 celery stalks, peeled and halved
1 carrot, trimmed and peeled
1 daikon radish, trimmed and peeled
1 cup canola oil (or any neutral oil), as needed
2 tablespoons green onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
Caramelizing the onions: Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onions and cook for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onions from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Add the chopped jalapeño peppers and transfer the onions to a pot.
How to make vegetarian miso broth: In the pot, add the ginger, apples, daikon, carrot and 3-½ quarts of water. Bring to a full boil for about 40 minutes and cook until the broth is reduced by 1/3. Using a fine mesh strainer, regularly skim the impurities rising to the surface of the broth. Add the carrot and daikon and lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Add the sliced celery, 2-½ tablespoons of white miso paste, sugar and pepper. Cook for another 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of green onions. Adjust seasoning if necessary; the broth should be on the salty side as you will dip the fried tofu in the broth. Season with more miso and pepper if necessary. The vegetarian miso broth is ready.
Making miso tofu: Drain the liquid from the package of the tofu. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel. Cut the piece of tofu into ½-inch slices. In a 10-inch non-stick pan, heat the canola oil for about 2-3 minutes. You should be able to get about a 1-inch deep layer of oil. The key to good fried tofu is to get little bubbles when the tofu is in contact with the oil. Don't overheat the oil; otherwise the tofu will get too golden and chewy. Just stick to the slightly jumping bubbles. Place the tofu one piece at a time; make sure the tofu pieces don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium. Cook for 2 minutes; the tofu will start to pop and increase in volume. Flip each piece and cook about a minute longer. Pick up each tofu piece with wooden chopsticks with as little oil as possible and immediately dip the tofu into the miso broth. The tofu will deflate instantly. Pick up the miso broth sunken tofu with another pair of clean wooden chopsticks. Repeat until all the tofu pieces are ready.
Assembly time: Remove the oil from the pan, leaving about 2 teaspoons of oil. Heat the oil and add the minced garlic. As the garlic becomes slightly golden, add the tofu pieces and ½ to 1 cup of miso broth. Stir constantly until all the broth is absorbed. Once the liquid evaporates, add 1 tablespoon of cilantro.
Garnish with more cilantro. Serve with chili garlic sauce (tướng ớt) on the side.
If you like you, you could also add stir-fried beef flank steak slices.
The preparation of the tofu seems pretty simple to execute. You just need to be very careful on the temperature of the canola oil when you fry the tofu so it really triples in volume and deflates when it is dipped in the miso broth and absorbs all its flavor.
The flatter the onion is, the sweeter it is. I always try to pick flatter-shaped yellow onions at the market. I char the onion to caramelize the outer layer and enhance the sweetness of the broth. This method is very common when making phở.
Daikon (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) is an Asian radish that looks like a large white carrot. I use this root a lot for making broth. I usually discard the root when the broth is ready but you can serve it if you like the taste. It's also delicious when it's pickled with carrots and is commonly used in Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches.
For best results, the fresher the tofu, the better. I've noticed the tofu increases in volume a lot more when it's ultra fresh. I use Thanh Son brand tofu. If you live in the Bay Area, you have to try it. They sell in almost all the Asian markets in downtown San Jose, and their main shop is on 2857 Senter Road, San Jose. It's a very little shop but everything is very good. Their tofu has the best texture; it's made fresh daily.
The oil used for frying the tofu is reusable. Just filter it through cheesecloth and place in an oil can for your next use.
Place the leftover vegetable broth in containers and store in the freezer. You can keep it for up to 6 months.Published By: on March 9, 2010.