Five Spice Dougan  (Pressed Tofu)
Five Spice Dougan (Pressed Tofu)
Tofu has become a pretty popular food in Western countries, but while the processed soybean substance is usually considered to be a meat substitute, for many Asians it’s just another ingredient to complement our dishes. That’s why you often see pork and fish in tofu dishes. Some believe that tofu was invented in the Han Dynasty (164 BC) by a prince named Liu An, who accidentally created bean curds while trying to make an elixir of immortality for his father the king. Lots of tofu shops in Taiwan still have a Liu An shrine to pray to on the day when they make tofu.

These days there’s a debate raging over whether soy products are good or bad for you. I may be biased because I’m Asian, but I do believe that tofu is a healthy food to eat. After all, we have been eating tofu, natto and gochu-gang for thousands of years. We also grew up on soy milk instead of regular milk because many of us are lactose intolerant, and it doesn’t cause any apparent damage to our health. Having said that, there is some evidence to suggest that the way large agribusinesses grow soy may have a harmful impact on the environment. That’s why I prefer organic tofu and fortunately there’s a local business making fresh, affordable tofu right here in the midcoast.

There are countless ways to prepare tofu and hundreds of varieties of tofu to use. One of the most popular street foods in Taiwan is pressed tofu because it keeps longer, has more flavor and is also very versatile. It’s got a meaty texture, which lends itself well to braised pork or stews, fried ,rice and stir fries. It’s also pretty tasty when its deep fried, and it makes a great snack just on its own. Here is my own technique for making Five Spice Pressed Tofu.


1 lb. tofu
12 tsp. Chinese five spice
1 clove garlic
1 chunk of ginger
1 scallion
12 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. sugar
2 cup water


Wash and clean fresh tofu and cut into 2-inch squares. (photo 1)

Place the tofu cubes on a clean surface and gently cover them with a cutting board. Hold it down with heavy pots and pans and let it press over-night. This will allow the tofu to squeeze out all of its moisture. (photos 2 & 3)

The next morning you will see that the tofu is dried and flattened. (photo 4)

Roughly chop up scallion, ginger and garlic. Place them in a large saucepan along with soy sauce, sugar and five spice. Bring the liquid to a boil and place in the pressed tofu. Allow it to simmer for two hours. (photos 5 & 6)

After two hours, place the tofu pieces on an oven rack and dry them in the oven at 175° F for 3 hours. If you have a dehydrator you can dry them in it for 5 to 6 hours. (photo 7)

You want them to have a slightly bouncy and rubbery texture. They will keep in your refrigerator for up to three weeks and in your freezer for three months. You can eat them as a snack or toss them in any stir-fry. You will be surprised how much they taste like meat as they bring so much more flavor and texture to the stir-fry. For more dishes and recipes visit