Gomadofu (Sesame Tofu) Recipe

Gomadofu (Sesame Tofu)

Because summers in Japan are hot and humid, Japanese cooks know a thing or two about the refreshing dishes such sultry days call for.

Gomadofu falls into that category: a concoction of sesame paste cooked with a thickening agent until set, it resembles tofu in color and texture, hence the name (goma = sesame), and is served chilled.

I first came across it when Maxence and I traveled to Japan last spring, and stayed overnight at a temple in Koya-san. There we were served a shojin ryori dinner, the vegan cuisine that is practiced by Zen Buddhist monks in Japan*, and one of the many little dishes brought to us was a shallow cup of gomadofu, silky on the tongue and richly flavorful.

I hadn’t really thought to make it myself until I found this post on Maki’s ever-helpful Japanese food blog. Her recipe seemed so easy, I couldn’t not try it.

I already had sesame paste on hand — mine is a Middle-Eastern-style tahini I buy at the organic store — so all I needed to get was some kudzu powder, a starch drawn from a Japanese vine, which is not hard to find if you have access to a natural foods store or a Japanese market.

I made my first batch following Maki’s recipe, to deliciously rewarding results. All you do, really, is combine the sesame paste with kudzu powder and water, heat it up to thicken, then chill to set.

On a later occasion, I used a couple of tips I got from another inspiring Japanese food blog I frequent, called Tess’s Japanese Kitchen. I steeped some kombu (a type of seaweed) in the water first, and added a little sake for flavor, but both of these steps are optional.

All in all, very little exertion is required to create your very own sesame “tofu,” which you’ll then divide into cubes and serve cold, as an appetizer or as part of a light meal, typically pairing it with soy sauce, wasabi, and freshly grated ginger, or the homemade sauce Tess suggests.

I myself like it with yuzukosho (a yuzu and pepper condiment) and a little seaweed — strips of torn nori or, as pictured above, a sprinkle of freshwater seaweed from Jugetsudo in Paris — in addition to soy sauce.

Having made the original sesame version a few times now, I am planning to branch out and make amondodofu with almond butter and kashudofu with cashew butter**.

Don’t forget to read Maki’s post and Tess’s post; they both offer interesting info on gomadofu.

* If you’d like to learn more about shojin ryori, Maki recommends a book called The Enlightened Kitchen, by Mari Fujii.

** Not official names; I’ve just made them up.

Gomadofu

– 500 ml (1/2 quart) filtered or spring water
– a 5-cm (2-inch) piece of kombu (optional)
– 50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) kudzu starch (look for it in natural food stores or Japanese markets, possibly under the name kuzuko)
– 70 grams (2 1/2 ounces, about 1/3 cup) white sesame paste (you can use a Middle-Eastern tahini or a Japanese neri-goma, whichever is easier to find)
– 1 tablespoon sake (optional)

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Put the water and kombu (if using) in a bowl and let them sit for at least 1 hour. Remove the kombu and discard, or reserve for another use (I add it to the water when I cook legumes, it is said to make them easier to digest).

Place the kudzu starch in a medium mixing bowl. Add a little of the kombu-infused water and stir/mash until completely smooth. Add the sesame paste, then pour in the remaining water little by little, stirring well so the mixture will thin without forming lumps. You can use a whisk to stir the mixture, but make sure you don’t incorporate air into it: it shouldn’t become frothy.

Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, and add the sake if using.

Place the pan over medium heat and stir constantly with a spatula as the mixture thickens. As soon as it becomes lumpy, set the heat to low and cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer, stirring continuously, until the mixture takes on a pudding-like consistency.

Wet the insides of a square or rectangular container (this is so the gomadofu will unmold easily), about 750 ml (3 cups) in capacity, and pour the thickened mixture into it. Smooth the surface with the spatula and place the container in the fridge to set for 2 to 3 hours.

Unmold onto a large plate and cut into square servings with a knife, dipping the blade in hot water between cuts.

Cooking/baking time: 20 min

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  • http://www.marisabirns.com Marisa Birns

    So happy I found you on Twitter, which led me to your blog!

    There are vegans in my family and this looks like something I can make and share with them.

    Mille fois merci!

  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I wonder if that would work with something else besides kudzu starch? and does the kudzu starch impart any flavour?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      The recipe I linked to on Tess’s blog uses arrowroot starch, if you’re able to find it. And as far as I can tell, the kudzu starch flavor is undetectable; it only acts as a thickening agent here.

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    I bookmarked the sesame dofu from Maki’s blog as well. I will definitely give it a try as soon as I find kudzu. I was wondering how does it compare to normal tofu, is it a bit more flavourful? I really enjoy the blandness of soy tofu but unfortunately most of the people I cook for are not huge fans, so I need to adjust quantities. Thanks for the additional links and hints as well!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Although the texture of gomadofu does resemble that of silken tofu, I think the simile ends there. Gomadofu has a more pronounced flavor and a mouthfeel all its own. Definitely worth trying!

  • http://www.theroadforks.com Akila

    Clotilde, this looks delicious. We just got back from Japan and all the food we ate there was amazingt! I haven’t tried making any of it at home but this is going to be at the top of my list (along with making some tofu from scratch).

  • Caroline

    I love it when I discover there’s a food out there I’ve never heard of! This would be a great alternative for those with soy allergies. But since I don’t, and it looks like this would be rather high in fat, what incentive would I have to choose this over regular soy tofu?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      As I wrote to Caffettiera above, I don’t think gomadofu should be seen as an equivalent or a substitute to soy-based tofu, despite the name — it really has its own texture and flavor profile, and the point of trying it is just to expand one’s culinary horizon.

  • http://www.cozydelicious.com Katie@Cozydelicious

    Oooh, I love the idea of trying this recipe with other nut butters! You have to let us know how that goes. I adore cashew butter and would love to try that!

  • http://www.theinternetchef.biz Bridget Davis

    This looks great!!

    One can only imagine the how this super dish tastes!!

    Thank you for sharing.

    Bridget Davis ~ The Internet Chef
    Sydney [AUstralia]

  • Kat Tanaka Okopnik

    Do you know that “annin doufu” (almond tofu) exists as a separate concept already? It’s almond-flavored (I’m not sure if it’s almond powder or almond milk) kanten jelly, usually served as little chunks (often cube or rhombus shaped) with fruit cocktail or azuki, maybe with condensed milk as well.

    Is tahini a 1:1 substitute for the Japanese sesame paste, or does it give a different but pleasing result?

  • cindy

    You can find arrowroot at any Chinese/Asian grocery stores. I was intrigued by the name Kudzu and did a searc on Wikipedia and found the Chinese name 葛根. You can buy it at Asian stores as well. Wikipedia has some interesting info on kudzu as medicine.

  • http://www.aspiringvegan.eu Pauline

    Pleased to see your reply to Samantha Angela – kudzu was the only ingredient missing from my kitchen but I do have arrowroot. I never think tofu has much flavour (however long I marinate it with tastier things!) but I love tahini.

    Hope you’re enjoying The Book Thief – I found it one of the most affecting books I’ve ever read.

  • http://www.morethancarrots.com Cheftometrist

    Thank you so much for this post! I really love a restaurant in Berkeley, California, that serves shojin ryori food (Cha Ya). So, now, with this recipe, the links, and the book, I feel like I will be able to explore this type of cuisine myself. Thank you!

  • Deidra

    Hi Clotilde!
    Just wondering- I’m living in a middle eastern country at the moment, and it may be near impossible to find kudzu starch. I want to try this recipe! Do you think there is anything I could substitute? Maybe something as meager as cornstarch?

    I just re-read the posts above and saw arrowroot starch as a substitute but I’m afraid I can’t find that hear either.

    What do you think, would cornstarch taste awful and do you think I should try 1:1 in place of the kudzu?

    Thanks!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I really couldn’t say because I’ve never tried it, but I don’t think you’d get the same results with cornstarch. Kudzu starch acts in a different way; it “gels” as well as it thickens. But do let us know if you decide to experiment!

  • http://www.mademoisellemacarons.com mademoisellemacarons.com

    Great tips and nice blog! Merci :)

  • http://enchantedfig.blogspot.com/ Amanda at Enchanted Fig

    This looks delightful! I’m being tempted more and more to try such delicate, reserved, mildly foreign treats!

  • http://www.thatveganblog.com/search/labels/danielle Danielle

    Thanks for this cool post! I’m intrigued by the gomadofu, and have all of the ingredients to give it a try! Looking forward to exploring the sauces you’ve mentioned. Thanks for the links– I will also look for The Enlightened Kitchen. How fun!

  • Melissa in Austin

    Wow Clothilde! Today you blew my mind – I had NO idea that that horrible plant could come to anything good – let alone delicious! I am so impressed and now I will have to revise my thinking about the vine that grows faster than you can walk!

  • http://www.remedialeating.com molly

    Mmm… I’ve been dreaming of cold tofu, doused in soy, scallions and sesame oil, to battle our hot humid sticky. THis is new to me, but already, on my agenda. Thanks!

  • http://fotografiafoodie.blogspot.com/ fotografiafoodie

    Beautiful. Not generally appealing to my wider friend group, but I want to try!

  • http://vegetalion.blogspot.com vegetalion

    I just tried making chickpea tofu at home, which was such a success that I’ve been thinking of trying other varieties of tofu… I’ve never heard of sesame tofu and am really excited to try it!

  • http://bilingualbutter.blogspot.com Lucie

    I’m really excited to give this a try, I’ve got a jar of tahini waiting around in the fridge. Thanks for this recipe, Clotilde!

  • http://www.theteachercooks.com The Teacher Cooks

    This could be extremely interesting to do for a class of teens!

  • http://yourbestadvice.blogspot.com/ your best advice

    I like tofu and that looks great!

  • http://digacherry.blogspot.com/ Dig a Cherry

    Ca à l’air encore mieux que les pâtisseries de chez Toraya…

  • http://invain.jimdo.com/ IVAN

    I love to see a pre-dinner :)

  • http://cardsbycara.blogspot.com Cara

    Hey! Love this post. Hadn’t been to your blog in a while but happened by this evening and what a coincidence – just made a chilled tofu salad of fresh soft tofu, fresh ginger, sesame seeds and a vinaigrette of sorts with ponzu, soy, vinegar, yuzu juice and a speck of yuzu kosho. (Love yuzu kosho too, just like you! ;P ) I added some julienned cucumber and it was a perfect light dinner. Do you enjoy wakame salad too? If you are having fun with Japanese flavours, check out Ming Tsai’s Miso Shallot vinaigrette – it is divine on salads:

    MISO-SHALLOT VINAIGRETTE
    Makes 2 1/4 cups
    1/2 cup miso
    1/2 cup shallots
    1/2 teaspoon togarashi
    1/2 tablespoon sugar
    Juice of 1 lemon (I add zest too)
    1/4 cup rice vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
    1 1/2 cups grapeseed or canola oil
    Kosher salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    (I add half a peeled apple and some fresh ginger too)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for sharing this recipe, Cara, it looks great!

  • http://kayrichardson.blogspot.com kay

    Yummy! This looks good enough to eat.

  • Anjali

    Very neat. I’ve never heard of this before but will give it a try. I like how you’ve been introducing us to Japanese foods not just flavors, so thank you.

  • Y

    for Deidra-
    Try combining cornstarch and gum arabic-both are easily available in the middle east, and used for making sweets and puddings. But you’ll have to experiment with quantities, and perhaps ask the shopkeeper or an older neighbour for instructions on the gum arabic. It should come in little nuggets that you grind, and is called MASTIK.

  • http://www.cocoandme.com Tamami

    O.M.G! You went to Koya-san?! That’s my one place I’d love to go next time I’m in Japan! I’ve been listening to podcasts by the monks from there (sorry, it’s in Japanese) & the stories/ messages are inspiring & enlightening. – You stayed in a temple? Which one? Lucky you!! Perhaps I can do the same… – Anyway, hope all is well C! xx

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Oh yes, it was one of the (many, admittedly) highlights of our trip. We stayed at a temple called Shojoshin-in and enjoyed it tremendously. I hope you get to go soon!

  • Maria

    Oh, I can’t wait to try the gomadofu recipe! There’s a Buddhist retreat (Koya-san) I used to go to occasionally when I lived in Japan, and they served gomadofu with the evening meal. I searched for a recipe for a while, but could never find one, and thought I would never again get to taste this delicious treat. Thank you for posting this!

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