This Chilled Tofu with Crunchy Baby Sardines from Andrea Nguyen's newly released bean curd bible, Asian Tofu, is all about textures. Creamy tofu is topped with crisp, fried, tiny sardines, fresh shiso, and crunchy toasted sesame seeds.
Super simple and clean, this starter showcases how enjoyable tofu can be with just a few smart garnished. Mild on its own, the tofu takes on a wonderful savoriness through the soy and potato chip like sardines. Oh, and those sardines? Well, this recipe is worth it just for them. Nguyen calls them "oceanic bacon bits" in the intro and she's spot on—they are just that good.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1/4 cup dried baby sardines
- 1 pound silken tofu or medium tofu, or 2 cups tofu pudding, chilled
- 4 or 5 green shiso leaves, cut into very thin strips (about 1/4 cup total)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted and slightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
- High-quality Japanese soy sauce
In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, position a mesh strainer over a bowl and have this set up near the stove; you’ll use it to quickly drain the fish.
The oil is ready when you drop in a fish and it immediately sizzles. Add all the fish and gently fry, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, until they are fragrant and crisp. During cooking, they’ll darken, then turn golden. If you like, pick up the skillet toward the end to prevent overcooking.
Pour the contents of the skillet into the strainer. Give the strainer a good shake, then transfer the fish to a paper towel–lined plate to further drain and cool. Keep at room temperature if using within hours. Or, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week; return the fish to room temperature before serving.
If using silken tofu, run a knife around the edge of the mold or package and invert onto a plate to unmold. Pour off the excess liquid or use a paper towel to blot it away. If using block tofu, drain it on a dishtowel or double thickness of paper towels placed atop a plate. Cut the silken or block tofu into husky 1-inch-thick dominoes or 2-inch squares. Arrange them on individual dishes or in shallow bowls. If using tofu pudding, scoop up large shards with a metal spoon, putting them into a shallow bowl or individual dishes. Before serving, pour off any whey that gathers.
Top the tofu with some shiso and sesame seeds, and a crown of the fried fish. Serve the seasoned soy sauce on the side. If you have leftover fish, save it for a rice topping.