A simple cold silken tofu recipe elevated with a savoury sauce, fried garlic, fermented black beans, and topped with pickled cucumber. It is truly one of the easiest Chinese tofu side dishes you can prepare that is utterly delicious to eat.
Why You’ll Love This Side Dish
I love this silken tofu recipe because it is so easy to make, and the flavours are spot on for me. This is a great Asian side dish to share with family and friends.
The original version of the Chinese cold silken tofu recipe with its classic combination of cold silken tofu topped with green onions, garlic and soy sauce is also a winner. It is simple, flavourful and has no cooking involved.
However, for my recipe, I decided I needed something a little more. I am not trying to overcomplicate it or add more work. This silken tofu recipe is still very simple, but I upped the ante with bolder flavours and more texture.
Rather than just adding green onion or scallions and garlic as toppings, I mixed fried garlic with the quintessential Chinese flavouring – fermented black bean (douchi 豆豉).
This takes the savoury component of the dish to the next level. Salty pops of fermented black beans will definitely wake your taste buds!
Matched with the soft, silky tofu and crispy fried garlic, salty fermented black beans and a zesty pickled cucumber, this Asian side dish demonstrates a delicious juxtaposition between flavours and texture.
This silken tofu dish recipe is quick and easy that makes a great appetiser or side dish. We had this Chinese tofu dish with rice and other Chinese mains like steamed fish, stir fry veggies and claypot stew.
What Is Silken Tofu?
Tofu is made of soybeans that are curdled and pressed into blocks. The different types of tofu differ on how much liquid is extracted from the soybeans during production. Firmer tofu will have less water, while soft tofu will have more water content and wobbly texture.
The main difference between regular tofu and silken tofu is the production process. Silken tofu is not pressed like regular tofu. Instead, it is undrained and unpressed therefore creating soft, silky tofu. It has the highest water content out of all the different types of tofu.
Silken tofu is fragile to touch and will fall apart easily when not handled carefully.
What Does Silken Tofu Taste Like?
Like other types of tofu, silken tofu has a neutral taste. Therefore, it is a great vehicle to carry different bold flavours.
Silken tofu resembles soft pudding or set custard in texture. they make for great side dishes for beef or side dishes for fish.
Can You Eat Tofu Cold?
Yes, you can eat silken tofu cold.
The thought of eating cold silken tofu may seem odd to you, but in fact, there is a long history of people eating cold tofu.
Many cold silken tofu recipes are very simple to make. Generally, you will see silken tofu paired with chopped green scallion with a little bit of garlic and topped with soy sauce.
Some might add doubanjiang for a spicy version. Five minutes later, you have a delicious silken tofu side dish ready to go.
Japanese also serve a silken tofu recipe called Hiyayakko, cold silken tofu topped with soy sauce, chopped scallions and dried bonito flakes. A great small dish served in the summertime.
Other Uses Of Silken Tofu
I love adding silken tofu to noodle soups, hot pots and Korean stews. It is excellent in absorbing the flavours around it. I also like to make a tofu scramble for breakfast.
Silken tofu has become very popular in vegan cooking. Due to the soft texture, you can blend silken tofu and add it to salad dressings, desserts and sauces. Blended silken tofu will give a thick, creamy texture which acts as an excellent substitute for dairy products.
What Is Black Bean?
Ok, so the black beans used in this recipe are not the same as the black beans you would find in chilli bowls or vegan enchiladas. They are black turtle beans.
The black beans used in this recipe are black soybeans. The black soybeans are fermented and salted to create a semi-dried black bean used in stir-fries, stews and sauces.
Also known as douchi 豆豉, these black soybeans form the base of the classic Chinese black bean paste. Stir fry beef or steamed pork ribs are the two most popular dishes with which we would use black bean paste.
Fermented black beans have a salty, savoury flavour. If you eat them as is to taste, they will be pungent, bordering slightly bitter. It is typically used to flavour dishes and combined with sugar to mellow the saltiness.
Flavour/Texture: The overall combination of flavours are mouthwatering in this silken tofu recipe. The savoury sauce over the silken tofu is a delight, plus pops of salty black beans, aromatic fried garlic and zesty pickled cucumber together create an addictive taste.
The soft silky tofu slides well together with the various textures of the toppings makes the cold tofu dish interesting and delicious.
Ease: There are three easy components of this Chinese tofu dish. There is a little cooking involved, but all can be done quickly and easily.
Time: About 15 minutes at most. This also includes the quick pickling time for the sliced cucumber.
These are the ingredients you need in Silken Tofu with Fried Garlic and Black Beans.
Lebanese/Garden cucumber: We need a small cucumber for this recipe, so I used Lebanese cucumber. They are short, smoothed skin with a mild taste which is similar to garden cucumber. If you have continental cucumber in the fridge, that’s fine too. Just use half a continental/English cucumber.
Rice wine vinegar: Essential in the pantry for Asian salads and pickles. Compared to white vinegar, rice wine vinegar is less acidic with a milder, sweeter flavour.
Garlic: An essential flavouring ingredient in this recipe. The fried garlic will add a warm, savoury punch. Be sure not to over fry chopped garlic as the darker it gets, the more “garlicky” and can get bitter.
Black beans: Salty and pungent, you can find fermented black beans at your Asian grocery store. We are not using black bean sauce but the whole beans in this recipe.
Silken tofu: Available in most large supermarkets and Asian grocery stores, silken tofu will be stored in the cold section. It will keep well in the fridge unopened but once open best to consume as soon as possible.
Variations and Substitutions
Other variations of toppings for silken tofu recipe:
- Use chopped green scallion or coriander in place of pickled cucumbers.
- Add your favourite chilli sauce, such as Lao Gan Ma chilli oil or doubanjiang.
- Substitute black beans with crispy shallots.
- Use the Chilli Black Vinegar Dressing in our Tofu Skin Salad.
- Add dried bonito flakes with soy sauce and ginger for a Japanese style chilled tofu dish.
- Mix gochujang with scallions, rice wine vinegar, sugar and sesame seeds for a spicy sauce.
- Those who are more adventurous can try adding black century eggs (Chinese preserved duck eggs) and sliced ginger on silken tofu. This is a popular Chinese cold appetiser.
Serve warm: If you prefer warm tofu, you can steam the silken tofu for 2 minutes to heat through and then add fried garlic, black beans and pickled cucumber. Alternatively, leave it out of the fridge till room temperature.
Pickled cucumbers: The cold tofu dish will work without pickled cucumbers. Fantastic with steamed rice.
Gluten free option: Use tamari instead of soy sauce for a gluten free recipe.
Follow these step by step instructions on how to make Silken Tofu with Fried Garlic and Black Beans.
We will start with how to pickle cucumber. This is a quick pickled cucumber process as we are only pickling for about 10 minutes. The thin slices of the cucumber will absorb the vinegar quickly, so no need to leave it for too long.
Whilst the cucumbers are pickling, you can make the fried garlic and black beans. Then assemble all together at the end.
Thinly slice cucumber using a mandoline or sharp knife.
In a small mixing bowl, add rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Mix well until sugar dissolves.
Add sliced cucumber to the pickling mixture and sit for at least 10 minutes.
Finely chop garlic.
Add vegetable oil and chopped garlic in a small frying pan in a cold pan.
Gently fry garlic over medium heat until lightly brown. You don’t want to take the garlic too far as they will continue to fry with black beans.
Add black beans to oil and continue frying until garlic is crispy and turns golden brown. This can happen quickly, so don’t leave the frying pan unattended.
Remove from heat—scoop fried garlic and black beans from oil and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
How To Remove Silken Tofu From Packaging
Follow these steps on how to remove tofu from packaging without breaking it.
Peel off the top of the silken tofu packaging.
Turn upside down onto the plate.
Use scissors and cut a small slit in each of the corners.
Gently pull the container off.
How to Assemble Side Dish
Make sure you drain any excess liquid from the water from the tofu before assembling.
Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over cold silken tofu.
Scatter fried garlic and black beans over silken tofu.
Drain pickled cucumbers from the pickling mixture. Give them a good squeeze to remove any excess liquid.
Gently place pickled cucumber on top of silken tofu.
The soy sauce and sesame oil will pool at the bottom of the plate. Use a spoon when serving. This makes it easier to spoon the sauce over the silken tofu when eating and also a bit tricky to pick up silken tofu with chopsticks!
How to Serve
Here are some main dishes that will go well with Silken Tofu with Fried Garlic and Black Beans.
Typically served as Asian side dishes, we thought to share some mains from around the world such as this Pakistani whole fried chicken recipe that is a traditional fried whole chicken form Lahore.
For lovers of Korean cuisine, you’d love this kalbi short ribs, delicious spareribs marinated in soy sauce and handful of other ingredients. And for a classic Chinese recipe, try this mushroom san choy bow or vegetable lettuce wraps.
Frequently Asked Questions
I would probably avoid using regular tofu in place of silken tofu for this recipe. It is not about the flavours, as regular tofu will still pair well with fried garlic, black beans and soy sauce. It is more about the texture of silken tofu that makes this Chinese tofu dish so delicious.
Plus, I would steam regular tofu first before eating. I would not eat regular tofu straight from the packaging.
Generally speaking, silken tofu cannot be used interchangeably with regular tofu in most recipes.
I prefer to leave the block of silken tofu whole and not cut it when I am serving. Just make sure you serve with a spoon so it is easier to scoop up the silken tofu.
You can cut the silken tofu into thick slices or even large cubes if you prefer individual portions.
Yes, you can prepare the pickled cucumber and fry garlic and black beans ahead of time. However, I would not assemble until ready to eat. Silken tofu tends to weep when left standing for too long. If you do take it out of the packaging early, make sure you drain any excess liquid before assembling it.
I store mine in the fridge in an airtight container. They will keep for a while, and you can use them in other Chinese recipes.
The easiest way is to use whole black beans is in stir fry. You can make your own cheat version of black bean sauce.
Fry off fermented black beans in oil with minced garlic, minced ginger, rice wine, soy sauce and sugar to taste. This easy homemade black bean sauce will be great with stir fry beef, chicken or steam with pork ribs.
This cold silken tofu recipe is so easy to make and tastes amazing! Literally ready in a flash.
I love the pops of salty fried black beans against the soft white tofu counterbalanced with the tart pickled cucumber. With a bowl of steamed rice in front of me, I can easily finish the whole block of silken tofu myself.
I know this is a cold silken tofu dish, but to me, it is comfort food heaven. Familiar flavours that bring back childhood memories.
More Asian Side Dishes
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Silken Tofu Recipe with Fried Garlic and Black beans
- 1 cucumber, Lebanese
- ½ cup rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar, white
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp fermented black bean
- 2 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 silken tofu, 300g-400g
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Thinly slice cucumber using a mandoline or knife.
- In a small mixing bowl, add rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Mix well until sugar dissolves.
- Add sliced cucumber to the pickling mixture and sit for at least 10 minutes.
- Add oil and chopped garlic in a small frying pan in a cold pan. Gently fry garlic over medium heat until lightly brown.
- Add black beans to oil and continue frying until garlic is crispy and turns golden brown.
- Scoop fried garlic and black beans from oil and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- To assemble, remove silken tofu from packaging and place on a serving plate. Drain any excess liquid from silken tofu.
- Drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil over cold silken tofu.
- Scatter fried garlic and black beans over silken tofu.
- Drain pickled cucumbers from the pickling mixture. Give them a good squeeze to remove any excess liquid. Gently place pickled cucumber on top of silken tofu.
- You can’t substitute silken tofu for regular tofu as they have very different textures and would not work for this recipe.
- If you prefer warm tofu, you can steam the silken tofu for 2 minutes to heat through and then add fried garlic, black beans and pickled cucumber. Alternatively, leave it out of the fridge till it reaches room temperature.
- If you are preparing ahead, best to assemble when ready to serve. Silken tofu will continue to seep liquid if left standing for too long. Drain any excess liquid to avoid the dish becoming too wet.
- Use tamari instead of soy sauce for a gluten free recipe.
- Other variations of toppings for silken tofu:
– Use chopped green scallion or coriander in place of pickled cucumbers.
– Add your favourite chilli sauce, such as Lao Gan Ma chilli oil or doubanjiang.
-Substitute black beans with crispy shallots.
– Use the Chilli Black Vinegar Dressing in our Tofu Skin Salad.
– Add dried bonito flakes with soy sauce and ginger for a Japanese style chilled tofu dish.
– Mix gochujang with scallions, rice wine vinegar, sugar and sesame seeds for a spicy sauce.
– Those who are more adventurous can try adding black century eggs (Chinese preserved duck eggs) and sliced ginger on silken tofu. This is a popular Chinese cold appetiser.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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Amy Liu Dong
I have never tried to eat cold tofu or make this dish for my family.
It looks delicious and easy!
The Devil Wears Salad
It’s super easy. Hope the family likes it!
Looks delish!:) I would want to try this silken tofu recipe.:) Usually we fry the tofu then dip it with soy sauce and calamansi. So this recipe is another alternative to cook it. Thanks!:)
The Devil Wears Salad
Dip in calamansi?? Yummmmmmm! What a fabulous idea!
I just got some silken tofu and not sure what to cook with them, will be trying this recipe. We do not have lebanese cucumber here, I will sub it with japanese kind.
The Devil Wears Salad
Any cucumber will work for this recipe and will work well with the silken tofu.