This Hong Shao tofu is the best tofu recipe that can change your mind if you think it is tasteless.
红烧豆腐 (Hong Shao tofu) means ‘red-cooked tofu’ directly translated from those Chinese characters. It is called ‘red-cooked’ because it involves the use of soy sauce (and, in some cases, chili oil), which turns it into a gorgeous reddish color. The tofu imbues all the goodness from the braising liquids and becomes deeply flavorful.
If you are against tofu because it tastes bland, this best tofu recipe will change your mind. Give it a shot.
The three-steps foolproof method for the best tofu recipe
This recipe is the best tofu recipe I’ve done because it takes three simple steps to prepare. I can make it as long as I have the tofu since other ingredients are readily available in my kitchen pantry. Besides that, it has a large margin of error, so even if you mess up somehow, it is still an excellent dish for the family.
I have divided the process into three independent steps.
1. Deep-fry the tofu
The tofu is first deeply fried (or pan-fried) then braise with the aromatic and seasoning.
But why can’t we skip the pan-frying step? There are two reasons:
- A thin layer of skin is formed on the surface during frying, which can hold the tofu’s shape and prevent it from breakage during cooking.
- It also creates texture and additional flavor.
The right type of tofu
My favorite is the pressed tofu with medium hardness. I like the texture compared to the firm or extra firm tofu because it is more silky and smooth. The soft tofu is not very suitable because it can break easily while cooking.
I find that the tofu that I purchased is quite soft even though it is labeled as pressed tofu. There is a simple way to make the tofu firmer by removing the excess water. You can use the following method for any types of tofu.
- Cut the tofu into half to one inch thick slices.
- Place the tofu in a tray. You can also line a piece of dry cloth underneath the tofu.
- Put a chopping board on top of the tofu, then place some heavy items on it, such as a skillet. The goal is to apply some weight to force out the water from the tofu.
- After 15 minutes, you will notice the tray is now filled with water.
- Discard the water.
- Cut the tofu into 1-inch square cubes.
The tofu is ready for deep frying.
Is it necessary to coat the tofu with flour?
Since I need to deep-fry the tofu before braising it, it is naturally considered to coat tofu with flour and egg wash.
Flour is not necessary because it would not be crispy anyway after braising, and neither needs the flour to protect the tofu from getting dry and tough. However, I like to coat the tofu with some eggs to improve the color after deep frying.
Mix the beaten egg with the tofu gently. The tofu will become firmer after deep frying and easier to handle. Place the tofu gently into the colander to filter away the excess egg liquid.
Deep frying vs. pan frying tofu
The traditional way
The tofu is deep-fried in the wok with plenty of oil traditionally. Place the tofu carefully into the wok piece by piece to prevent the tofu from sticking together. Avoid moving the tofu with the wok spatula as it can break the tofu. A better way is to nudge the tofu lightly with chopsticks to separate them. When the bottom side of the tofu becomes slightly brown, flip them over carefully to brown the other side.
Transfer the tofu to a shallow colander to remove the excess oil.
Using a frying pan with less oil (the alternative method)
A more practical way to do it at home is to use a flat base frying pan filled with half an inch of oil. You need less oil with this method, especially if you are not deep frying foodstuff often at home.
2. Saute the garlic, scallion, and chili
Garlic and scallion are the aromatics for this recipe. Garlic should be chopped coarsely but not minced, as minced garlic burns quickly. Ask for the scallion, cut it into thin rings. Saute the white portion of the scallion, and keep the green portion to garnish.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in the wok or a pan. Saute the coarsely chopped garlic until aromatic. Then add the chili and the white portion of the scallion, and flash-fried for 20 seconds.
3. Braise the tofu
Add the braising liquid and the fried tofu to the aromatics and simmer for 30 minutes.
The components of the braising liquid are listed as Ingredient C in the recipe. I usually premix these ingredients, but you can add them separately to the pan. The main components are the light soy sauce and the oyster sauce. The Szechuan peppercorns and the chili oil is optional if you prefer a non-spicy version.
Szechuan peppercorns can be purchased at most of the Asian grocery shops. As for the Szechuan chili oil, you can use the store-bought version or make it yourself by following the steps in this article.
Why do we need to braise the tofu?
Braising and stewing are methods ideally used to cook meat. So why is it necessary to braise the tofu since it is already soft?
Tofu has an excellent texture but lack of flavor. It acts somewhat similar to potatoes and picks up any flavor.
Since it takes time for the tofu to absorb the flavor into the interior, it is necessary to braise it for half an hour. This step is importat.
After 30 minutes, add two teaspoons of cornflour to the tofu to thicken the sauce. It is better to add two tablespoons of water to the cornflour to form a slurry first to avoid it from being lumpy.
You may want to add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine at this stage for additional flavor.
Before you dish out and serve, turn off the heat and add the remaining scallion rings. Serve immediately.
Other tofu recipes
If you think this red-cooked tofu is the best tofu recipe, you are likely also interested in trying other tofu recipes on this blog. Below are there different styles of tofu that you can try:
Tofu with mushroom and meat sauce – This is a tofu recipe taste different from the red-cooked style tofu. The tofu is deep-fried the same way, then use minced meat as the topping.
Mapo tofu – A traditional Szechuan style tofu dish for those who like hot and spicy food.
General Tso’s Tofu – A fusion tofu recipe improvised from the American Chinese dish General Tso’s chicken. Again the taste is different from all the above.
Best tofu recipe -How to make red-cooked tofu (红烧豆腐)
This is the best tofu recipe which can change your mind if you think tofu is tasteless and difficult to cook.
It is called 红烧豆腐 (Hongshao tofu), which means ‘red-cooked tofu’ directly translated from those Chinese characters. It is called red-cooked because it involves the use of soy sauce (and in some cases chili oil) which turns it into a gorgeous reddish color.
- 2 slab of pressed tofu
- 1 egg
- 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 small red chilies, cut into thin rings
- 1 tbsp thinly sliced scallion (white part only)
- 1 tbsp oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
- 2 tsp chili oil
- Half cup of water
- Cooking oil for frying
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (optional)
- 2 stalks of scallion, cut into thin rings
- Cut and drain the tofu. Put the tofu in a tray, place a chopping board, and some heavy objects on top to press the excess water out.
- Cut the tofu into one-inch cubes. Coat with beaten egg and drain.
- Deep-fried the tofu until both sides are slightly brown (and become firm to handle)
- Saute ingredients B until aromatic. Add Ingredients C and the deep-fried tofu.
Simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add 2 tsp of cornstarch (make a slurry with some water) and add to the tofu.
Splash a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine. Turn off the heat and add the remaining green section of the scallion. Serve.
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Soeos Authentic Szechuan Peppercorns (4 Ounces), Grade A Red Peppercorns, Sichuan Peppercorns, Chinese Peppercorns, Less Seeds, Szechuan Flavor Peppercorns, Szechuan Pepper for Mapo Tofu
Blank Slate Kitchen Szechuan Chili Oil | 8 ounce | no MSG, no preservatives, non-GMO
GreenLife CW002044-002 Healthy Nonstick Dishwasher Oven Safe Sta Soft Grip Diamond Reinforced 8" Ceramic Non-Stick Open Frypan, 8-Inch, Black
Joyce Chen 21-9972, Classic Series Carbon Steel Wok Set, 4-Piece, 14-Inch Charcoal
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 238Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 1322mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 10g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 8/9/2020
Monday 12th of December 2022
I love hongshao tofu. I used to wonder how restaurants got the firm texture on the outside. It makes sense but somehow I never guessed it was egg.
Anyway, I made this recipe with 1/2 T of hoisin sauce instead of 1 T oyster sauce to make it vegetarian. It was great! Thanks! Will be adding it to my recipe rotation.
Wednesday 14th of December 2022
One method I always use to make tofu is to deep fry the tofu in hot oil. We carefully put the tofu in the deep fryer basket and deep fry it until it becomes golden brown on the outside. By doing so, the surface will become much firmer and able to hold its shape. The inside, however he still soft and tender.
Thursday 10th of December 2020
Just tried this and it was delicious! Thank you so much going to be a go to comfort dish for sure!
Friday 11th of December 2020
You are welcome, and I am glad you enjoyed it.
Monday 10th of August 2020
Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.