A bowl of warm tofu topped with sesame scallion sauce.

When I read Ruth Reichl’s description of this warm tofu with spicy dipping sauce — “a beautiful dish, which takes ten minutes, costs very little, and is so utterly delicious” —  in this month’s Gourmet, I couldn’t not make it.

And I’m so happy I did. This is by far the easiest — my friends who hate to cook are you listening? — and perhaps the oddest method, too, of preparing tofu I have encountered:

First, you simmer tofu in water — yes, water — which for whatever reason works; then you make a simple sauce, a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, chile flakes, and scallions; then you pour this sauce over the tofu.

It is as delicious as Ruth promises. Truly. Please try it. I think you will be pleased.

A board of scallions, spices, and soy sauce.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your sauce ingredients: soy sauce, sesame oil, chile flakes, scallions, garlic (if you wish), sugar, and sesame seeds.
Toasted sesame seeds in a skillet.
If you feel like toasting the sesame seeds, do so, but it’s not necessary.
a block of tofu simmering in water.
Place a block of firm tofu in a skillet and cover with water. Bring to a simmer, then lower heat to keep warm.
A halved block of tofu simmering in water.
Divide the block of tofu in half if you wish.
Two bowls each with a halved block of tofu inside.
Place each tofu half into a bowl.
Two bowls of warm tofu topped with sesame-scallion sauce.
Spoon sauce over top.
A bowl of tofu with spicy sesame scallion sauce aside spicy broiled broccoli.
Serve with vegetables on the side. I love this spicy broiled broccoli but steamed edamame is a great, simple option.

On the Side

Way back in the day, I worked at a catering company in Philadelphia. At nearly every party I worked, ‘peking duck rolls’ served straight from a bamboo steamer were passed with a soy dipping sauce … everyone raved.

Of course I went to Chinatown immediately following the first party I worked to purchase one of these three-tiered bamboo steamers. And while it is not a gadget I use often, I find it comes in handy here and there, and it’s kind of fun, too.

I love using it for edamame, which steam in under five minutes. If you have one, place it right into a wok filled with just enough water to reach below the first tier. Bring the water to a boil and then place edamame pods into one of the tiers. Cover and steam until done. Sprinkle with a nice sea salt according to taste.

Edamame steaming in a bamboo steamer basket in a wok.
A bowl of edamame with nice salt.

What to Drink?

Soju’s “neutral flavor,” according to Gourmet, makes it a great mixer and “a favored alcoholic beverage in Korea.”

I can’t really tell you how it tastes, only that it tasted very nice in the bloody Mary I had this morning at The Ramos House Cafe and continues to please in the beverage I am drinking now — a grapefruit soju cocktail. If you can’t find soju, any vodka will make a fine substitute.

A ball jar filled with grapefruit soju cocktail.

A block of warm tofu with spicy sesame scallion sauce on a plate.
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A bowl of warm tofu topped with sesame scallion sauce.

Warm Tofu with Spicy Dipping Sauce

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Adapted from Gourmet


To simplify the sauce, I often omit the garlic and don’t bother toasting the sesame seeds … it’s just as delicious. If you want to toast and crush the sesame seeds, you can mince them with some of the garlic and the scallions, which helps keep the seeds from flying off the cutting board.

Sauce can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Bring to room temperature before using. Consider doubling it if you want to serve it with rice

Regarding Korean hot red pepper flakes: you can use crushed red pepper flakes in their place or a chili paste such as Sriracha or Sambal Oelek. 

Tofu can be kept warm for up to 4 hours.

As noted in the post, I love the tofu with this broiled broccoli. 


  • 1 (14- to 18-oz) package firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic, optional
  • ¼ cup chopped scallion, or about 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted and crushed with side of a heavy knife, see notes above
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce, low sodium or Tamari if you are sensitive to salt
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse Korean hot red-pepper flakes, see notes above
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


  1. Rinse tofu, then cover with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then keep warm, covered, over very low heat.
  2. Meanwhile, mince and mash garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. Stir together with remaining ingredients.
  3. Just before serving, carefully lift tofu from saucepan with a large spatula and drain on paper towels. Gently pat dry, then transfer to a shallow bowl. Spoon some sauce over tofu and serve warm. Serve remaining sauce on the side.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Category: Tofu
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Asian

Keywords: warm, tofu, spicy, dipping, sauce

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A grapefruit soju cocktail in a glass.

Grapefruit Soju Cocktails

  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 10 drinks (according to Gourmet), 5 drinks (according to Ali)
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Adapted from Gourmet


  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1 quart (4 cups) fresh-squeezed (or not) grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup soju (sometimes called sochu), sake or vodka, chilled
  • Club soda or seltzer water chilled


  1. Stir the sugar and 1/8 teaspoon salt into the juice and stir to dissolve. Stir in soju and add sugar to taste.
  2. Pour into ice-filled glasses and top with a splash of club soda.


Gourmet’s note: Grapefruit mixture without soju can be made four hours ahead and chilled. Add soju to mixture just before serving.

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes