I love this dish. However, it's quite difficult to get coconut milk in Japan-- in my five months of stay here, I've seen canned coconut milk just once, in an imported goods store at the big AEON mall. Because coconut milk is imported here, its cost is rather high. Luckily, I brought two packs of powdered coconut milk before coming to Japan last time.
I was not sure if my husband will even taste this dish if I cooked it (because I know he doesn't like vinegar and sour dishes, and I'm not sure what his take on coconut milk is), so it took months before I first cooked it. Actually, I didn't even want to cook it then. I just didn't have any choice-- my husband didn't want me to buy too many vegetables because I will be leaving for a month (my flight was on that day) and he usually just eats outside when I'm not there to cook.
We still had two small packs of tofu, a small piece of ginger, and a few green chili peppers given by my husband's co-worker. So early that morning, I just went out to the supermarket five minutes away from our apartment to buy some green leafy vegetable. I saw chingensai and bought it.
Before I could eat lunch, my husband came home, ready to take me to the airport for my evening flight. He was supposed to eat on the way or at the airport, but I told him I made a bit too much for myself. Fortunately, he wasn't afraid of trying this dish.
As soon as he had swallowed a spoonful of this dish, he said with a complaining and regretful expression on his face, "Why didn't you cook this for me before?? Why did you cook this JUST now?"
I then brought five packs of powdered coconut after my one month stay in the Philippines.
Also known as Tinuktok na Tofu, it is one of the best coconut dishes you'll ever taste.
1 block tofu, cut into smaller rectangles
80mL coconut cream or 150mL coconut milk (more if you want it rich and saucy)
2-3 sheets yakinori, cut into strips
green leafy vegetable (like pak choi, chingensai or komatsuna)
green chilies or jalapeno
ginger, grated or sliced
3 tablespoons vinegar (or as desired)
salt, very very little (optional)
Align tofu, green leafy vegetable, green chilies, and ginger on the pan, ideally in one layer. Add a little water, enough to soak the bottom quarter of each tofu. Turn on your stove. Sprinkle some black pepper.
Wait until the water boils before adding vinegar and a dash of mushroom/vegetarian chicken powder. Be careful not to put too much seasonings because nori will still add to the saltiness and flavor of your dish. Let it boil again then immediately add coconut cream .
Let it simmer for a while. A minute or two before turning off the fire, add seaweed. Add salt if desired.
Turn off stove when desired flavor and consistency has been achieved.
Tips and tricks
If visual presentation strongly appeals to you, you may wrap the tofu in nori first, then wrap in pak choi leaf. It will minimize breaking of tofu and makes the dish even healthier and flavorful. Then just align pak choi stalks with the blocks of tofu before turning on the fire.
I love eating it with my soya fish, fried until crunchy. Best combo. My husband loves it so much although Japanese are not normally fond of coconut milk and vinegar viands.
This dish kept well in my fridge for 7 days and it was perfectly fine-- tasted as good as freshly cooked when reheated.
Here's the cooking video of coco-simmered tofu. My cooking process here (taken in 2017) is a bit different from my written procedure (written in 2013). The process in the video is simpler.
I wanted to try a different video shooting approach, but my daughter was awake when I cooked this. She was grabbing my charger cord, phone and tripods, and kicking and moving a lot in several parts, thus the unsteady shots. I hope the poor video doesn't bother you so much. Don't forget to subscribe to my channel!