Vegan Mofo 17: S is for Sesame Tofu (Goma Dofu)

Think tofu has to be made from soy? When I first came across this Japanese dish called Goma Dofu or sesame tofu, I thought it was an ingenious idea – a soy-free tofu made from sesame paste!

Tofu, in the traditional sense, is made by coagulating proteins in soy milk. Common coagulants used are magnesium chloride (nigari), calcium chloride or calcium sulphate (gypsum). (The divalent cations of these salts react with the anionic groups of the soy proteins, which destabilizes their structure and cause coagulation.) However since sesame does not contain as high levels of protein as soy, Goma Dofu is solidified using a starch, typically kuzu or kudzu starch, although arrowroot or potato starch may also be used. On the differences between the different starches, kuzu starch, which is extracted from the root of the kuzu plant, imparts a more elastic texture than arrowroot or potato starch.

I bought the Goma Dofu from a Japanese supermarket although it can be easily made from just three ingredients – sesame paste (white or black), kuzu starch and water. My first thought? Bleah, just pass me real tahini instead! It was starchier than expected but less so than tapioca balls, slightly gelatinous and wobbly, and its consistency was firmer than silken tofu not quite as firm as an agar jelly. It had a mild hint of sesame just enough to be noticed, but left you craving more, and being the ardent tahini addict, I proceeded to smother the goma dofu in a coat of tahini. Much better!

Typically, Goma Dofu is served as an appetizer or as a course in kaiseki dining. It was probably invented by Japanese Buddhist monks and is considered the most symbolic food of Shojin Ryori (vegetarian temple cuisine). Apart from excluding meat and fish, one website even says that root vegetables are excluded! It is believed that harvesting will cause the death of the vegetables, which is against their principle philosophy of “don’t kill.” As such, only grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are used. An in-depth article on Shojin Ryori can be found here.

So overall, I didn’t quite take to Sesame Tofu, although some has gone so far as to describe it as giving melt-in-your mouth experience. Sesame Tofu is not only the faux tofu; this can also be made with ground peanuts (peanut tofu), or also check out Shan tofu, a Burmese staple made from chickpea flour.

A Veggie Casserole for the Le Creuset

To break into my new lovely kiwi green Le Creuset casserole, I decided to bake a veggie casserole, specifically a trio of eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato. The ingredients are almost what you can find in a veggie lasagna, sans the pasta sheets. I did a very successful vegetarian moussaka before, but decided to go completely vegan this time (part of the reason being my laziness to create a “bechamel” sauce). The resulting dish is light, befitting for these hot summer days, but no less flavourful given the abundance of herbs. I mostly adapted the recipe from the genius Angela at OhSheGlows.

Veggie casserole

Layered Veggie Casserole
For one casserole.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, sliced
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced
  • 1 large sweet potato, sliced
  • Large bunch of baby kale leaves (spinach or arugula would also work well)
  • 3/4 jar pasta sauce (I used Alce Nero brand, tomato with basil)
  • 1 can (15oz) haricot beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano (if pasta sauce does not already contain herbs)
  • 1 tsp dried basil (if pasta sauce does not already contain herbs)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used avocado oil)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place sliced eggplants on a lined baking sheet and pre-cook for about 15 min, or until shrivelled (see picture below). Remove from oven and cool. Once cooled, you can easily peel the skin from the eggplant slices (if you’re finicky like me).
  2. While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the bean filling. Place the drained beans, herbs, garlic, and oil in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Layer the casserole. I did mine in the following order: pasta sauce, eggplant, bean mix, sweet potato, pasta sauce, kale, bean mix, zucchini (see picture below). The order doesn’t matter much though although on hindsight it is probably wise to have layered the harder veggies (ie the sweet potato) at the bottom where it would have cooked better. In total, the veggies were sufficient to yield two of such layers.
  4. Bake for about 40-50 minutes at 200C. (Hunger got the better of me; I was impatient and removed the casserole nearing 40 min but some sweet potato slices were still crunchy, so I recommend 50 min to be safer.)
  5. Let cool and dig into the amalgam of mushy beany goodness!

 
Veggie casserole layers

By some sort of unexplained science, the bean mix, which was very pasty and difficult to spread pre-bake, had “melted” and “melded” together with the pasta sauce into a wonderful mushy beany combination. If you like beans, you gotta love this.

Veggie casserole served

I have to say that having a cheesy bechamel topping would certainly elevate this casserole up a notch. Nevertheless, it was still very tasty and pizza-ish (thanks to the pasta sauce). I reheated the leftovers for lunch today and it was even better after all the flavours melded together overnight. Hooray for the first recipe in the new LC casserole!