When I tried to come up with a recipe for the Umami Chef Matcha Challenge*, all the usual recipes were too ordinary (lots of sweets) and I wanted to make something a bit different and creative. I ended up discovering a recipe that can be used for both savory and sweet. Brilliant.
When you think of tofu, you usually think of tofu cubes floating in your miso soup, or maybe, if you are an advanced Japanese food eater, agedashi tofu (fried tofu in dashi). Sesame tofu is something completely different in terms of flavor and texture.
Sesame tofu was created around Mt. Kōya, as a part of shojin ryori (buddhist food). It requires a long process of grinding sesame into a paste, then mixing it together with kudzu starch and water, then heating it up altogether and diligently stirring for a long time to achieve a smooth texture. The making of sesame tofu is so time-consuming that it was considered a part of Buddhist training.
I used to hate this dish because of the texture. It's more like mochi, rather than tofu – gooey, chewy, and sticky. As a kid, this texture wasn't acceptable, but at a certain age in your life, you start liking food that you hated in youth. Maturity, I guess.
Using matcha in this recipe gives it a nice green color, and a subtle, bitter green tea taste as well.
(*Try the other recipe in this month's Umami Chef Challenge: Super Easy Matcha Ice Cream)
Matcha Sesame Tofu
4 tbsp Tahini
60 grams tapioca starch
1 tsp matcha powder
1/2 tbsp sugar
Pinch of salt
400 ml water
I like this tahini by Beirut brand:
I usually buy this at an Indian grocery store on 1st Ave between 5th and 6th streets in the East Village, NYC.
You can find tapioca starch at many Asian grocery stores:
Umami Mart sent me this can of matcha. You can buy it here.
Put everything in a heavy-bottomed pot.
You'll see bits of matcha but do not worry about it. Put on medium heat, and keep stirring.
At one point the liquid starts to solidify. When this happens, lower the heat and start vigorously stirring until you feel like your arm is going to fall off.
I usually keep stirring for about 3-5 minutes. The mixture gets heavy because water evaporates. When you see a silky smooth texture, it's done.
It sort of looks like gross slime.
Place the mixture in a container of your choice. Wet the container surface before you dump in the tofu. This will make the removal easier later on.
Place plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture to avoid drying. Refrigerate it overnight.
Remove the sesame tofu from the container, cut it into pieces, and plate.
This is savory version:
Drop a tiny bit of wasabi on top of the tofu and drizzle some soy sauce around it. This will make a nice appetizer or a side dish.
Or, you can turn this into sweets by adding kuromitsu (dark muscovado syrup) and kinako (roasted soy powder), and a sprinkle of matcha powder.
If you like mochi, you will love this dish, both ways. You can buy pre-made sesame tofu at Japanese grocery stores, but it is super expensive – half this portion is about $5, so there's more reason you should make your own sesame tofu.