Cathy Erway's Favorite Comfort Food: Stir-Fried Dry Tofu with Edamame (豆干炒毛豆仁)

June 15, 2020

Photo by Pete Lee

Yes, it's essentially two ingredients that you can keep in your freezer — spring-green, shelled edamame and five-spice braised dry tofu (or dou gan/tofu gan) — and I highly recommend having them there at all times so you can make this in a few minutes. This dish was a specialty of my grandfather, although he likely would never have boasted of that. My Gong-Gong was not a very well-off man, and he raised my mom and uncle as a single father for most of their childhoods. He was from Hunan Province before jumping ship to Taiwan in 1948 (literally, but you knew that) and his palate always favored salt and spice. I think I inherited mine from his. This dish was on his frequent cooking rotation because it’s so damn cheap but so tasty, satisfying and packed with protein. Piled over rice, it’s impossible to stop eating. You can make it a bit more saucy with more soy sauce and a splash of rice wine or water. Certainly, if you have the luxury of buying some meat, you could cut slivers of fatty pork and sliver the dry tofu for a pretty typical Taiwanese stir-fry. But I’ve taken his resourcefulness to heart and love finding the cheapest, healthiest, tastiest bang for my buck in my home cooking. And during these lean, pantry staple-reliant times, who can argue with that? 

Dry Tofu with Edamame (Dou Gan Chao Mao Dou Ren)


Makes about 4 servings

This simple, homestyle dish is something that my grandfather whipped up as a quick, inexpensive, yet nutritious and protein-filled meal to serve with rice. You’ll need to find dry tofu (or tofu gan) from an Asian grocery, preferably five-spice–flavored varieties that are stained tan from a long simmer in a soy sauce–based broth. Dry five-spice tofu is commonly enjoyed in Taiwan because it is great for stir-frying until slightly crisped and browned on the sides. This recipe pairs neat cubes of it with sweetgreen soybeans (or edamame) to match their relative size and shape.

  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 pound dry five-spice tofu, chopped into roughly 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons light soy sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chili bean sauce, or more to taste (optional)

Bring a small pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add the edamame. Cook until just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes, and then drain.

Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat and add the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tofu cubes and cook, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned on its sides, about 2 minutes. Add the edamame, soy sauce and chili bean sauce, if using, and toss to coat evenly. Taste for seasoning, adding more soy sauce or chili bean sauce as desired. Serve immediately.


Dry Tofu with Edamame is excerpted from THE FOOD OF TAIWAN: Recipes from the Beautiful Island © 2015 by Cathy Erway. Photography © 2015 by Pete Lee. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.


Cathy Erway

Cathy Erway is the author of the cookbook, The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island, one of the first books published in the US to explore the island-nation’s cuisine and culture, and the memoir, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove. She hosts the podcast Self Evident, which explores Asian America’s stories. She received a James Beard Award for her food writing in 2019.