I stumbled on the concept of corn tofu while routinely perusing TOIRO Kitchen, an online marketplace for gorgeous Japanese donabe created by Naoko Takei Moore, a cookbook author also known as Mrs. Donabe. The concept is incredibly simple: fresh corn is blitzed with water and salt, which is thickened with kudzu starch over a heat source, then poured into a mold and chilled to a silken tofu consistency. I adapted the recipe, subbing a corn-kombu broth for the water. Kudzu powder is similar to arrowroot powder but not the same. It’s made from ground kudzu root, a vine plant belonging to the pea family (it’s a popular thickener throughout East Asian cuisines, but in the Southern United States, it has a storied history as an invasive weed). Kudzu is the superior thickener here, both for setting properties and for flavor, and it’s worth seeking out, but the recipe also works with arrowroot. Takei Moore garnishes cold slabs of this tofu with fresh wasabi paste. I enjoy a light drizzle of chile oil, thinly sliced scallions, and even chopped ripe tomato.
- To make the corn dashi: Place the spent corn cob in a medium saucepan and cover with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Add the kombu and 1 teaspoon salt, and remove from the heat. Let steep for 20–30 minutes, then strain. You’ll need just 1 cup of the dashi, but you can freeze the rest to use in soup, risotto, or to add to a batch of vegetable broth.
- To make the corn tofu: Combine the corn kernels and 1 cup of the corn dashi in a blender. Thoroughly blend until smooth. Taste, adding an extra pinch or two of salt if needed. Transfer to a medium saucepan (or donabe) and whisk in the kudzu or arrowroot powder. Place over medium heat, whisking constantly, and once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat to a gentle gurgle. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, and cook for 10–15 minutes, until glossy and fragrant and the thickness of a loose pudding.
- Scrape the mixture into a small square baking dish (preferably 6 inches) or divide between ramekins or small bowls. The poured tofu should be about 3/4 inch deep. Let cool, then transfer to the fridge to chill thoroughly—at least a few hours. To serve, slice cold tofu into rectangles or squares and garnish as you please.
Lukas Volger is a cookbook author and editor. He co-founded Jarry, an award-winning queer food journal, and his most recent book is Start Simple. For more information, visit lukasvolger.com or @lukasvolger on Instagram.