Shaking Tofu


To be honest, I'm still a little starstruck that my Shaking Beef graced the cover of the February 2019 issue of Food & Wine. But today, I'm here to lobby for its meatless sister—Shaking Tofu. Named for the quick back-and-forth shaking of the pan that takes place during cooking, this stir-fry is a quick-fix crowd-pleaser no matter which protein you choose. After a lightning-fast sizzle in your wok or skillet, the crispy tofu gets enrobed in a savory-sweet sesame-scented sauce, which gets tossed with a fresh salad of watercress, thinly sliced onion, and herbs. The result is bite after beautiful bite of peppery, just-wilted greens, fragrant herbs, and of course, irresistibly crispy-chewy tofu. One taste and you'll understand why I'm such a big fan of this dish. I grew up with tofu, but for people who are new to it, the white blocks can seem alien and challenging. This shaking tofu recipe from my book Vietnamese Food Any Day is a terrific way to explore an amazing ingredient.Tofu originated in China and spread from there to other parts of Asia, to wherever soybeans could grow. It's simply a plant-based cheese, the pressed curds of coagulated soy milk—dried soybeans that have been soaked, ground with water, then filtered and cooked. A staple that's made daily and sold like fresh bread by artisans and commercial ventures alike, tofu can be enjoyed plain (it's a satisfying, ready-to-eat protein) or rendered into savory or sweet dishes.In Vietnam—a country that's roughly the same size as California with a population of over 95 million people—Buddhism is popular, and meat is precious, and so naturally, tofu is part of everyone's diet. At markets and neighborhood shops, tofu is commonly sold as unadorned creamy blocks as well as in fried golden pieces. Rich, chewy-crisp, and sturdy, fried tofu lends handsome, tasty pizzazz to dishes like this Shaking Tofu. But you don't have to go to an Asian market or specialty store for fried tofu because it's easy to make at home.Head to the supermarket, natural grocer, or specialty retailer like Trader Joe's, and look in the produce department or near the dairy case for tofu. For frying, select extra-firm tofu sold in water-packed tubs. Super-firm "high-protein" tofu sold in vacuum packaging is way too dense for this recipe. Whenever you buy tofu, check the best-by date to determine freshness.Once you cut a block of tofu into pieces that you'll cook up later, they start releasing liquid and draining. I rarely press or weight down an entire block of tofu because that takes too much time. Just pour out the water from the tub and cut up the tofu block to start your prep. For this recipe, lightly salting the tofu helps it brown beautifully and imparts extra umami.(Also, Insider tip: you can actually fry the tofu in hours in advance and warm it up with the sauce right before bringing all the components together.) 

Shaking Tofu
Photo: Greg DuPree
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
35 mins



  • 16 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes (3 cups)

  • 3/8 teaspoon finely ground sea salt, divided

  • 3 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos, Maggi seasoning sauce, or soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1 large garlic clove, pressed or minced (1 1/4 teaspoon) 

  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil (such as grapeseed oil)


  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar or honey

  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion or shallot, rinsed in cold water and patted dry

  • 4 cups loosely packed watercress, arugula, or baby lettuce mix (2 ounces)

  • 1/4 cup torn fresh mint, basil, or other leafy herb (optional)

  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)


Prepare the tofu

  1. Gently toss together tofu and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt in a bowl. Spread tofu in an even layer on a kitchen towel or double layer of paper towels; let drain 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together 3 tablespoons water, Bragg Liquid Aminos, sugar, garlic, sesame oil, cornstarch, pepper, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until sugar dissolves; set aside.

  2. Heat canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Pat tofu with paper towels to remove excess moisture. Add tofu to hot skillet; cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on 2 to 3 sides, 5 to 6 minutes.

While tofu cooks, prepare the salad

  1. Whisk together 2 tablespoons water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add onion; top with watercress, mint, and tomatoes (if using). Do not toss salad; set aside.

  2. Reduce heat under tofu in skillet to medium; pour Bragg Liquid Aminos mixture over tofu. Cook, stirring often, until sauce reduces slightly and clings to tofu, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

  3. Toss together salad ingredients in bowl; transfer to a serving dish. Top with tofu; spoon remaining sauce in skillet over tofu.

Make Ahead

Fry the tofu, but do not add Bragg Liquid Aminos mixture. Set tofu aside, covered, at room temperature, up to 4 hours. When ready to serve, prepare the salad, then re-warm the tofu in a skillet over medium until gently sizzling. Add Bragg Liquid Aminos mixture as directed in Step 4, and continue as directed.

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