Most recipes are about the ingredients, and for me, the simpler the better.

But some recipes are about the technique. And that’s certainly true for my Mom’s stuffed tofu dish, which she calls “yurn daufu” in Cantonese. It’s basically firm tofu that’s cut into triangles and then stuffed with a bit of Asian fish cake (which is really more like a paste).

I’ve tried to make this recipe after my Mom gave me instructions over the phone, but it was a major fail because I couldn’t keep the stuffing inside the tofu when cooking it. So when I was back home in Honolulu, I convinced my Mom to make a video with me so I could see first-hand how it’s done.

You can buy the fish cake at any Asian grocery store in the refrigerated section. It should be uncooked (don’t buy the ready-cooked fish balls in the freezer section, for example). My Mom also gets it at the fish market, and it’s kind of like ground fish meat.

Below is the actual recipe for you to follow after you see my demo. Enjoy!

The finished dish

Stuffed Tofu and Bell Pepper
Makes 6 to 7 servings

Ingredients:
1 lb. Asian fish cake or ground fish meat
1 to 2 blocks of firm tofu
1 green bell pepper
2 t ground white pepper
1 T sesame oil
2 T green onion or scallions, finely chopped
1 small can of water chestnuts, finely diced (optional)
1 T cornstarch
2 T oyster sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth or water
salt for seasoning
Canola oil

Cut your tofu into triangles. Depending on the size of your tofu block, you may need to cut the tofu along the side to get about 2-inch thick slices. Then cut into triangle shapes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt to season the tofu. Also cut the green bell pepper into triangular shapes, removing the seeds inside. Set aside with the tofu.

Create the stuffing by mixing the fish cake, white pepper, sesame oil, water chestnuts, and green onions in a small bowl, blending all the ingredients. (You don’t need to salt the fish cake because it should already be salty.) Then stuff the tofu by cutting a slit or pouch in the center of your tofu slice and inserting the fish cake with a butter knife. (It’s OK to have some of the fish cake smeared around the edges. Don’t be afraid to get the stuffing in there, but don’t go all the way through.) Do the same with the bell pepper slices, which should be easier since you’re just filling the shell.

Warm a large skillet with oil (to cover the entire skillet bottom) over medium high heat and then cook your tofu by placing the fish cake side down first and browning (the fish cake will turn opaque when cooked). Then brown the sides (just the two largest sides, you don’t have to brown every side.) You may need to cook your tofu in batches to not overcrowd the skillet, but make sure you have enough oil and keep the heat medium so you don’t burn the fish cake. Do the same with the stuffed green bell pepper starting with the fish cake side down.

Create a cornstarch slurry using the cornstarch and water (or chicken broth), stirring until the cornstarch is dissolved.

When you’ve cooked all the tofu and bell pepper, put everything back into the skillet and then slowly add the cornstarch slurry to create a sauce. If it looks too thick (you want a glaze), then add more water or chicken broth. Add the oyster sauce to finish off the flavor. Garnish with more chopped green onions. Serve with steamed rice.

NOTE: You’ll probably end up with a lot more fish cake than you’ll need. Just pop your leftovers into the freezer and defrost for the next time you’re craving stuffed tofu.

10 Responses to Cooking with My Mom … Stuffing Tofu

  1. Very nice video – love the detail and the camera work. There’s a lot of substance. Never realized tofu came in anything but the “stateside” 2-in packs!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Thanks! Yeah, the Hawaii tofu is like the old Japanese blocks. I think you could probably find the blocks “stateside” at those Chinese stores where they sell tofu still soaking in a tub!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    One of my fave comfort dishes! It’s so great that you’re getting your Mom to teach you these family recipes, too. I can’t tell you how much I wish I had made my Mom write down MORE of her recipes before she passed away. They are to be treasured.

  3. Cookie says:

    I remember my mom making something similar when I was a kid except she stuffed her tofu with ground pork. I totally miss it!

    • Ben Ben says:

      Oh yeah, my Mom mentioned you could use ground pork too. She says that you just need to cook the ground pork a bit longer just to make sure the meat is cooked through. I think I prefer the fish cake, though. Plus, I have a feeling the ground pork would fall out more easily since it’s not a glutinous as the paste for the fish cake.

  4. agent713 says:

    I’ve never had fish cake like that and I’ve eaten very little tofu but that dish looks really yummy! It was great to see your mom again too <3

    • Ben Ben says:

      Fish cake seems really common in Asian cultures. I think almost any Asian country has some form of fish cake. In Cantonese, it’s called “yu bang,” which literally means fish cake even though it doesn’t resemble a cake at all. But it’s made into various forms, like fish balls for soup or blocks that are sliced for ramen. Or as stuffing for tofu!

  5. May says:

    This is one of the old favourite Hakka dishes. In Kuala Lumpur the Ampang area is an old Hakka town and all over town, there are stalls selling Ampang Yon Tau Fu.

  6. Kim Curtis says:

    Beautiful job, Ben. And your mom’s kitchen looks great!

  7. Row says:

    Thanks for the recipe… it looks yummy! Btw, your mom is so cute!