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Asian cookery, with an emphasis on the traditional, underappreciated, or misunderstood elements thereof.

Seriously Asian: Frozen Tofu

"The method is extremely simple and convenient if, like me, you always seem to have opened packages of tofu sitting in the fridge."

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[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

Frozen Tofu Braised in Soy Sauce

View the complete recipe here »

My love of frozen tofu began by accident. Stuck with a glut of half-used packages, I threw the blocks into the freezer and promptly forgot about them for weeks. Then, rifling through the fridge one day, I found the frozen tofu tucked away.

Yellowed and leathery, the blocks bore no resemblance to the fresh version. Still, not wanting to waste all that soy goodness, I tossed the tofu blocks into boiling water and waited.

The tofu emerged from the water looking considerably more appealing. No longer tan, the block had become white and pliable. I chopped the tofu into smaller squares before adding them to a braised pork dish. The result? Some of the most densely-textured tofu I'd ever eaten—tofu that, unlike the fresh blocks, had an ever greater capacity of absorbing the braising liquid.

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The texture reminded me of the pressed tofu cakes, called "vegetarian chicken," of which the Chinese are so fond, yet no frying was necessary to achieve the same firmness. In short, I was quite pleased with my discovery. Some of the best "inventions," I thought to myself, come about by accident with a little ingenuity on the part of the cook.

It was only months later that I discovered the Japanese have been preparing tofu this way in a dish called Ichiya-dofu, or "Night-Dried" tofu. The frozen and rehydrated tofu is simmered in a mixture of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and it can be served with a number of other ingredients, such as sauteed ground meat or vegetables.

The method is extremely simple and convenient if, like me, you always seem to have opened packages of tofu sitting in the fridge.

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The process is as easy as it sounds: wrap the tofu in cheesecloth, freeze it overnight, boil it the next day in water, and simmer it to your liking, or add it as a component in other simmered dishes. I like to toss the chunks of tofu into the pot whenever I'm making an Asian-style braised dish with soy sauce, but the tofu would pair just as well with a vegetable broth.

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Frozen tofu may not be the most eye-catching item on the menu, but it's surely one of the most economical uses of old tofu.

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