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Braised Tofu & Radish with Ham Salt

Edward Lee

Lesson time 21 min

Edward highlights silken tofu in this dish of fatty broth, braised daikon and an apple-ginger puree. Beyond demonstrating how to create a rich broth, braise vegetables, and plate an elegant dish, he also emphasizes knife skills such as cutting radishes into perfect cubes and matchsticks.

Students give this lesson an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

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– Cooking for me a lot of times is about the contrast of flavors. Taking two things that maybe don’t belong together and sort of coaxing flavors, bridging them together so that they actually make sense on a plate. Probably one of the most misunderstood foods in the world is tofu. I grew up eating tofu in so many different forms. In soups, we paired it with seaweed, and beef, and meat stock, and pork stock, and pork kimchi stews. And all of a sudden my beloved tofu turned into a vegan health snack. And so, that’s fine, but once it became a health food and we started using it to sub out meat for burgers and chicken, it sort of got this bad reputation of being flavorless and bland. And the thing about tofu is that it is essentially bland. Bland is okay as long as we extract flavor out of it, as long as we coax it, as long as we accompany it with very different things that are gonna lend flavor to it. So today, we’re going to do a tofu dish. We’re pairing it with a really hearty beef stock and some ham salt, and we’ve got some radishes as well. One of the things that we’re gonna start with today which is really important for me is how to make a meat stock. I think everyone sort of has a vague idea about how we make stock, right? You put bones in some water and you boil it. We’re actually gonna take some fat and emulsify it into a stock versus making a clarified stock. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just ride with me and I’ll show you. We’re gonna start with some bones. So anytime you wanna make a meat stock, the bones are going to be your foundation. And we’re gonna need a lot of bones. You often hear terms like chicken stock, or beef stock, or veggie stock. One of the things I like to do is I just call it a meat stock, and a lot of times, I will just collect bones. I don’t care if they’re lamb, beef, chicken, pork. I collect bones, and then I will freeze them and then gather them all together and put ’em all in a stock. When the pork and the chicken actually start to play together, you’re creating a really beautiful, sort of symphony of bones, and they create a different flavor, a more harmonious flavor when we make stock. I’ve got some nice pork bones. You want bones that are just like this with a little bit of meat on them, right, ’cause the meat is also gonna give you flavor. Don’t trim off the fat, leave as much of the fat as you can on there, and they go right into the pot. And then cold water. All right, stock goes back up on here. All right, turn up the heat and I am gonna put this over a high heat. I wanna get this to a boil really quickly. One of the things you may have noticed is I didn’t caramelize or roast the bones before I do this. And I want a cleaner stock. I actually don’t want a lot of caramelized flavors in this. I just want the taste of the meat and the bones. All right, so let’s start adding some aromatics to this. Grab some garlic, ginger, pepper, coriander. All right, go and grab a bay leaf. Okay, so, you can add a whole bunch of things to your stock. Left over veggies, onions. You wanna get rid of it, throw it in your stock. It’s only gonna make your stock better. Let’s get going on this. Black peppercorns going in my stock. I’ve got coriander seed. One nice, beautiful bay leaf. And we’ll do a couple of cloves of garlic. Give that just a rough chop. And do like a little knob of ginger. Gonna slice it thin. Gonna do a lot of ginger. And then we’re gonna throw all of this right into the stock. Again, you can add any aromatics that you want. And aromatics are basically anything that’s gonna add flavor to your stock. At this point, I really don’t have much else to do it. Traditionally, you would turn your heat down to a really low simmer and let that slowly simmer for 10, 12, 15 hours. We’re not gonna do that. We’re actually gonna take a different approach. I’m gonna leave this jacked up on high. I’m gonna really bring that stock to a rolling boil. And all that fat that comes up to the top, instead of it getting skimmed off, it’s actually gonna get re-emulsified back into the stock because I’m boiling it so high. The stock is actually gonna have a more viscous flavor. You can almost taste the fat in every sip, and it’s gonna take about half the time to cook. So really I only need to cook this stock for about four to six hours. The other quick cheat is if you want, you can buy store-bought chicken stock, meat stock. You can actually take and combine them in a pot with the aromatics and throw some extra chicken and pork bones into it. If you already start out with store-bought stock, you can actually make that thicker and more emulsified by using this method as well. So I’m just gonna give that a quick skim just to show you how to skim off a little bit of these impurities. So now that’s gonna go for a couple of hours. I have this stock here that I’ve been already boiling for about four and a half, five hours. The color is deeper, richer, in some ways it’s cloudier because that fat keeps emulsifying into it. The stock is going at a pretty hard boil and we’re extracting all the flavor from the bones and the fat. We’re gonna give that a quick taste. Mm, mm, I mean, I can literally taste the fat in that. It’s fantastic. When you’re making a stock like this, you don’t wanna cook it actually too long. You can actually have stock that’s too powerful and it’ll overpower your food, but if you do do that, don’t worry about it. You can just add a little water back to the pan. Okay, so, I wanna introduce you to a concept that I have called ham salt. Two things that are important about this recipe is one, we’re, again, we’re extracting flavor. I wanna add salt to a dish, but I actually wanna add meatiness at the same time, so instead of adding salt and meat, I decided to combine the two and create a salt out of ham. And that way whenever I use this salt, it comes with also some ham flavor, some meaty flavor, some umami. The first thing we’re gonna do is freeze some ham chunks. So whenever I have some leftover ham pieces, I freeze them. You’re gonna have to work quickly ’cause you don’t want this to melt. I got my microplane. Okay, I’m gonna grab my frozen hunk of ham and I’m gonna start grating it. Because it’s frozen, it grates so easily. It’s almost like grating a piece of hard cheese. All right, and you can really do this with any cured meat. Obviously, you can’t do it with thinly sliced prosciutto, but if you ever get a whole leg of prosciutto and you’ve got leftover pieces, cut up the chunks, freeze ’em, and do this with it. And I promise you, once you do this once, this will be your flavoring salt forever. So what’s important is when you’re doing this, you wanna create one thin, flat layer. So don’t make a big pile of it. You wanna kind of distribute this ham all around your plate. And also, don’t disturb the ham ’cause it’s basically frozen and you kinda want it to just gently, it’s almost like snow. You want it to just gently lay on the floor. If you start pushing it around with your hot fingers, you’re gonna melt it. That’s it. This goes into a low oven about 300 degrees, and we’re basically just gonna toast this until it gets nice and dry and powdery. About 30 minutes to 45 minutes. It really depends on your oven. Remember, you don’t wanna cook this. You’re really just almost toasting it, letting it dry out. All right, we’ve got our stock boiling. We’ve got our ham salt ready. Now, we’re gonna pair it with the most natural thing in the world to pair with ham salt which is tofu. So I’m gonna grab us some tofu and some radishes. This tofu is called silken tofu. So it’s the softest, most tender variety of tofu. You can see how jiggly it is. So the other thing I like to do, especially with silky tofu, is get it outta the package, put it into a bowl, and just let a little bit of that excess water drain out. And that water really doesn’t have any flavor to it. Mm, it has a really nice creamy, almost cheesy flavor. Just like you have different textures in cheeses, you have everything from a soft Brie to a hard Parmesan, so you have different textures of tofu. Everything from a really soft tofu like this to a hard one. And all of these tofus are used for different applications. And here we’re gonna do a light, delicate application for silky tofu. That’s gonna go into my pot. The next thing I’m gonna do is cut up some daikon radish. Obviously, very popular in Asian food. Very different from say a breakfast or watermelon radish. I love the flavor of daikon radish. Again, it has almost a blandness to it when it’s raw, but when we poach it, it just unlocks these wonderful flavors inside of radish. And you can’t imagine how such a simple, flavorless thing in its raw state can turn into something so delicious once it’s cooked. I just wanna make some cubes of radish. Just gonna take a nice piece there. I’m just gonna square it off, which means I’m gonna take a round cylinder and turn it into a square. All right, and really at this point I’m just going to cut small bite-size squares. All right, so these little cubes of daikon radish are gonna go directly into my pan. I’m gonna turn on some heat. Okay, and then, remember that beautiful, fatty meat stock we made? I’m gonna ladle that right on top of the radish. All right, so need to cover it completely. It’s gonna poach in this liquid. And the only thing I’m gonna add to it is a little bit of soy sauce. About a teaspoon is all that you need. And go ahead and taste that stock too. Mm, perfect. So I’m just gonna let that simmer for about 10 to 12 minutes. The radishes will get very soft very quickly, but they’ll still have a little bit of resistance which is exactly what you want. Next up is the tofu. When the radishes are about halfway cooked through, and you can kinda feel it with the back of the spoon, they’ll start to get a little bit tender, the color on the radish will change too. They’ll actually start to become a little bit translucent. At this point, I wanna add my tofu. Because this is silky tofu, it’s very, very delicate to the touch. You’re not gonna be able to cut them into nice cubes, so I’m just gonna take a spoon and just pull out nice little chunks of it and just gently lay them into the poaching liquid. All right, so once that tofu goes in there, you do not wanna disturb it or else you’re gonna have a big cloudy mess of broken tofu. So let that gently poach. So my ham salt, let’s see how it is. Oh yeah, it’s done, perfect. Look at that, huh? All the moisture has been dehydrated out of this. Now think about this. This was cured ham, so salted ham that we actually dried out even further. So if you can imagine, this is really salty. Mm, but in the best way. So you really can use this just like salt. A little pinch goes a long way. Once you’re done here, let’s go ahead and store it. Got a little bowl ready and we’re gonna slide it right in there. And that’s it. Your ham salt. And this can stay out on your pantry just like you would regular salt. If you want, just cover it up so it doesn’t pick up any moisture, but it’s ready to go. I’m gonna do up some fun little garnishes for this. So again, all of my flavors here so far have been really salty, meaty, very heavy, so I’m just gonna lighten it up. First thing I wanna do is I’m gonna make some matchsticks out of this beautiful watermelon radish. So I’m basically gonna just square it off. Take a little bit of watermelon radish with that beautiful color, turn it into a nice little cube. I’m just gonna make flat squares that are gonna turn into matchsticks. The shape and the cut of different things really do affect the flavor, right? If you can imagine if I had cut this into really clunky large sticks, it wouldn’t have the same delicate feel in your mouth, and so that’s why I take the time to really make sure that when I’m doing a raw vegetable, I take that extra time to make sure that they’re very nice and thin. And so just think about your knife skills. It’s really important that you have control of your knife and the only way you’re gonna learn that is by practicing. So get in the kitchen. Every time you cut anything, a vegetable, a fruit, a piece of meat, really concentrate and focus on it. Don’t just randomly, haphazardly cut things. All right, we’re going to do our last little garnish which is a really fun grated zest of apple and ginger. I want to add brightness and acidity to this dish because it’s gonna contrast with all the meat and the salt and the heaviness. I’m going to grate a tart green apple. Make sure it’s nice and firm too, it’s not an old apple. Okay, about a half an apple is plenty. Now we have to work quickly because this green apple is gonna turn brown very fast. So I’m also gonna grate over it a little bit of ginger. So the ginger’s obviously gonna add some brightness and some flavor to it, but it’s also gonna help it oxidize less fast. So it’ll actually help it preserve its color a little bit better. And you’re just gonna mix it up right on your board just like that. Okay, so there’s your little apple ginger zest. All right, so we’re ready to plate. We gotta go quickly now. So I want you to look at that, those radishes. They’re almost see through at this point and it’s quite beautiful. So I’m gonna take my tofu and add it to the bottom of my bowl, little bit of radish. A little bit more of that tofu, all right. I’m gonna drop a little bit more of that broth. And at this point, we’re gonna top it with a little bit of that delicate green apple. Wherever you feel like, just top a little bit of it. You wanna make sure that you’re kinda getting a little bit of that puree with each bite. And I’m gonna do a little bit of the matchstick radishes. And again, you wanna spread it around so that it really covers. I think I’m gonna do a, pick a few cilantro leaves, not too much. And I like big pieces with the stem still attached to it. Okay, just a touch of sesame oil that I wanna drop on top of it. Just a few drops. And last but not least, we’re gonna cover the whole thing in just a little bit of ham salt. All right, there it is. A really delicate, beautiful dish. Braised Tofu and Radishes with Ham Salt.

About the Instructor

James Beard Award winning writer and best-selling cookbook author Edward Lee takes viewers from the farm to his restaurants and home in Louisville, Kentucky and teaches lessons on his beloved dishes including Fried Chicken with Gochujang Sauce, Oysters and Grits, Cabbage-Steamed Fish, and more.

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John Doe