I don’t remember if I was in Japan or in the U.S. when I first had “tofu pops.” These “tofu pops” weren’t some kind of frosty, soy snack, but were small rectangles of grilled tofu slathered with a savory miso sauce and skewered with a popsicle-stick shaped piece of bamboo.
Using my toaster oven instead of a grill, these little pieces of mildly-flavored tofu topped with a thick and pungent miso sauce make a great appetizer or side dish for a Japanese meal. The photo above shows two sauces: the reddish-brown one is barley miso, red miso, and leeks; the yellowish one is citrus-infused white miso. Recipes for preparing the tofu and the citrus-miso sauce are provided below.
Press the Tofu (optional, but recommended)
The photo collage to the left shows one way to press tofu. 1) cut the tofu block in half and place each piece on a cutting board or pan. I use the pans that came with my toaster oven, as the holey roasting pan and baking sheet form a self-contained draining system. 2) Put a knife or wooden spoon under one corner of the pan. 3) place a plastic lid or cutting board on top of the tofu slices. 4) Apply weight to the lid to force water out of the tofu. 5) Wait for one to two hours.
After pressing the tofu, cut the tofu pieces into slices of about 3 cm by 3 cm by 1 cm.
Cook the Tofu
Ideally, the tofu would be grilled before the sauce is applied, but if you don’t have a grill ready, the toaster oven works nicely. Turn the toaster oven to “broil” and cook each side of the tofu for about 5 minutes, until the pieces have a light golden color.
Apply the Sauce and Broil
The final steps are to apply a dollop of sauce to one side of each piece, then place the pieces under the broiler until the miso sauce is hot, probably a few minutes.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Adapted from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku
3 T. light miso (shiro miso)
1 1/2 T. sake
1 t. mirin
1/2 t. fresh grated lemon zest
Sugar, salt and water, if needed
Place the miso, sake and mirin in a small saucepan. Stir until well mixed. Add half of the lemon zest and stir.
Cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce has the thickness of ketchup. Take care when stirring, as this thick sauce might bubble and sporadically spurt hot bits of sauce.
Remove from heat and let cool. Adjust the sugar, salt and thickness (using water). Add the remaining lemon zest and stir.
The sauce will keep in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for a few weeks.