Spicy Warm Silken Tofu with Celery and Cilantro Salad

[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Note: Chinkiang vinegar, broad bean paste, and chili oil can all be found readily in Asian grocers.

About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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Spicy Warm Silken Tofu with Celery and Cilantro Salad

About This Recipe

Yield:serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer
Active time:5 minutes
Total time:5 minutes
Special equipment:mortar and pestle
This recipe appears in: Spicy Warm Silken Tofu with Celery and Cilantro Salad


  • 1 stalk celery, cut into thin 2-inch matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3 whole scallions, sliced into thin slicers at an acute bias
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted whole cumin seed
  • 1 tablespoon sesame paste (such as tahini), or peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Chinkiang vinegar (see note above)
  • 2 teaspoons fermented chili broad bean paste (see note above)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup Chinese roasted chili oil (see note above)
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 (19-ounce) block soft silken tofu
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds


  1. 1

    Combine celery, cilantro, and scallions in a medium bowl and cover with ice cold water. Add 4 to 5 ice cubes and set aside.

  2. 2

    Combine peppercorns and cumin in a mortar and pestle and roughly grind. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add sesame paste, soy sauce, vinegar, chili bean paste, sugar, chili oil, and garlic. Whisk to combine and set aside.

  3. 3

    Spoon tofu into a serving bowl and microwave until barely warmed through, about 1 minute. Cover with dressing. Drain celery, cilantro, and scallions carefully and add to bowl. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.


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