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What drives us?  What fuels the engine that set us in motion through this open water of life?  And to what extend, if any, do we understand and can we even steer this propulsion?  Or are we all, in the end, simply just being moved?  Because when you think about it, doesn’t the phrase “being driven” imply, in the best case scenario, riding shotgun?  So are we all just passengers in an autonomous car?  At this point in life, I ask myself this a lot.

Whatever it is, we are of course all driven by different things, some by ambitions, some by expectations.  Some are driven by responsibilities.  Some are driven by ideals.  I, for one, am regrettably yet hopelessly driven by the saddest of them all — insecurities.  It is, no doubt, a powerful fuel, productive even, if cultivated under the right set of circumstances.  In spite of the inconvenient mandate it has issued me since birth to render all perceived informations as glass-half-if-not-almost-empty situations, it had nonetheless also dragged me through college, got me a job sort of, kept me engaged, however minimal, in some form of social productivities, being the last line of deterrence in between me and rotting unenthusiastically in an endless pit of Cheetos and ice creams.

Where it’s most relevant to the subject on this blog, it had also, with absolute authority, dictated how I cook.

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As depressing as it may sound, for me, cooking is not actually about love, gathering, or even about eating.  Cooking, however solitary, is a sport.  And sporting is about performances.  It has to stand out.  It has to exceed.  It keeps a score.  Don’t get me wrong.  I adore this sport.  But as much as I feel happiness and fulfillment through this process, every time I present a dish whether here or in front of friends and families, I am not to nourish, I am to be evaluated.  It’s utterly pathetic.  I hate myself too as I read these sentences, but hey, I’m not driving remember?  I’m being driven.

This unfortunate defect in my character has largely reduced the number of basic recipes on this blog.  Quick or simple maybe, but not basic, at least not in my mind, not without some flare, some ah-ha’s, some kind of charm offensives.

But why am I babbling about this today?  Because today I’m breaking a mould.

The initial objective in this recipe was to create a dressing that is creamy yet extremely lightweight, without the deployment of mayonnaise or dairy-thickened products, as an equally exciting solution to a much-presented problem as we are being harassed by the demands of summer.  Credited to Brook’s Headley’s vegan chocolate ganache, the unlikely firm tofu came to mind.

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The scrutiny that is imposed onto this under-appreciated Asian ingredient, often being measured against other robustly more flavorful competitors on the grocery isles, is sadly unfair and misinformed.  Because tofu was never about flavor.  Tofu is a textural thing.  Being pressed into solids, the curds are silky and fragile on the tongue.  Being obliterated in a food-processor, it becomes unexpectedly thickened, smooth and creamy.  It’s the new perfect mother-sauce.

Upon identifying the subject, my insecurity immediately steered the direction towards sensationalism, something loud, something flashy, something doused in heat and spices then set on fire with lighter fuel.  But something strange if not downright unnatural was happening.  This time, in spite of myself, my mind kept defaulting on a childhood comfort that is neither special or bold — the very simple flavors of silken tofu dressed with soy sauce and sesame oil.

This recipe is not rowdy.  It isn’t trying to make a point.  It quietly invites, and it quietly receives, where it quietly untethers after that.  The weightless creaminess wraps its subjects like the touches of cold satin sheets, cooling and soothing, tightens only to a gentle point by the saltiness of soy sauce, the nuttiness of sesame oil, and the soft prickling of wasabi in the nasal cavity.  It is perfectly unextraordinary.  It’s not how I like to cook.  But it’s what I want to eat.

And believe it or not, that for only a handful of times on this blog, I’m okay with that.  I consider it a triumph.


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Serving Size: 2


  • 2 servings (about 2 small handfuls) of fresh or dry ramen noodles (see note *)
  • 1 box (about 4x3x2 inch) firm tofu, such as this one
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp light brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp hon tsuyu/Japanese noodle soup base (see note **)
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/8 tsp wasabi, plus more if preferred
  • Toasted sesame oil to drizzle
  • Finely diced green scallion to garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper to season


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the noodles according to instructions. Once done, immediately transfer into a large tub of iced water to shock and cool down. Set aside.
  2. Drain off of any water that comes with the tofu and gently pat dry. Break it into large pieces with your hands and place inside a food-processor. Add sea salt and light brown sugar, and run the processor until the tofu is completely silken and smooth. It should have the texture of thick mayonnaise.
  3. Drain the noodles extremely well, then toss them together with the tofu sauce until thoroughly and evenly coated. Mix soy sauce, hon tsuyu, grated ginger and wasabi, and spoon it over the top of the noodles (you can adjust the amount according to your liking), then drizzle generously with toasted sesame oil and garnish with lots of finely diced scallion. Give it a few turn of black pepper and serve immediately.


* In the first photo, you can see the exact type/brand of ramen noodle I'm using. This may not be available to you depending on where you live, but you can use any other types of fresh ramen noodles, dry ramen noodles, dry soba noodle, or even udon noodles.

** Hon tsuyu is Japanese bonito-flavored (and sometime kelp-flavored as well) soy sauce. It's often sold in concentrated form in bottles, which is then diluted to be used as a soup base or dipping sauce for noodles. The specific brand I'm using for this recipe is HIGASHIARU, but you can really choose any brands that is available to you, as long as it is sold as a 3x to 4x concentrate.

  • A Brown

    July 24, 2018 at 10:27 PM Reply

    You are the most original food writer on the web. Even your layout is unique and easy on the eyes. Love the three columns. Your creations are not to be found anywhere else. I’m in the hinterland and cannot get most of the ingredients you specify, but I wing it and it always (well, almost always) comes out delicious. Please don’t get a day job. Keep going!

  • Sam

    July 24, 2018 at 11:17 PM Reply

    I enjoy reading your recipes but honestly I don’t make them often because they are frequently too complicated/inimidating for me (and coming up with vegetarian alterations is difficult with your usual flavor profiles). But I will make this. I do appreciate simplicity because honestly I’m not that good of a cook. I just like to pretend. So I would appreciate more “basic,” “fundamental” recipes from time to time. But cook whatever the heck you want to build your brand the way you feel you need to. I like your style and I’ll still buy your damn book. I say all of this with love.

    • Claire

      July 25, 2018 at 5:35 AM Reply

      I agree with you! Except we do have the Japanese bonito sauce to contend with. Yes, kelp would be ok…but completely unavailable here in the UK!

      • Saki

        July 25, 2018 at 2:15 PM Reply is an online Japanese foods shop based in the UK where you can source basically any Japanese pantry item, and sometimes even frozen or fresh as well. I’ve had really great luck with them! I’ve even had them deliver rice!

  • Elisavet

    July 25, 2018 at 12:34 AM Reply

    I would describe your recipes as “projects” rather than recipes. But this doesn’t stop me from reading every-single-one that you post from the top to bottom. Truly love your work, keep on sporting ;)

  • Heidi

    July 25, 2018 at 12:40 AM Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this post, Mandy (and sharing the delightful recipe). I feel this sooooooo much in my cooking – like what I bring to the table has always been an extension of my self-worth. Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us, as well as your amazing, and comforting food. Cheers!

  • Misha

    July 25, 2018 at 2:10 AM Reply

    I also struggle with cooking in order to be evaluated–which is challenging because I’m not that great a cook, since I only started cooking recently. But this blog and your recipes have inspired me to push myself and try new things, and I always have the utmost respect for what you come up with, including this delicious-looking recipe! I’m definitely going to make it, especially since I’m trying to be vegetarian and not make so many of the beautiful, beautiful meat recipes you have ;_;

  • Iris

    July 25, 2018 at 3:50 AM Reply

    Thank you for this! I’ve been cooking something new every day for the past 2 months because my in-laws are living with us. Honestly speaking, I did it before but there was no real pressure – but with the new baby and the Entourage (4.5 in laws), it’s different now and sometimes, I just want to eat cereal for dinner (and cold stuff is a no-no for Asian people, apparently). It’s getting to the point that I’m feeling a silent pressure every night to figure out what to cook next, especially since all I have left in my personal recipe book are not weeknight-wise and I feel awkward making the same thing repeatedly – this recipe looks like a great experiment for me to try in my kitchen and it’ll be a jiffy to make!

    I honestly just love reading your posts and gaze upon the photos. My family is vegetarian (no alliums) so I can’t make most of what you post and when I do, I often make changes, but food is food and I do love what you have going on here. Cheers!

    • gfy

      July 30, 2018 at 2:09 PM Reply

      SURELY your visiting family does not expect you to cook every night with a new baby on top of guests??? make them take you out for goddess’ sake, lol! or make your husband take you. sheesh…you shouldn’t even have to ask, but do what you’ve got to make them respect your limits!

  • Ann

    July 25, 2018 at 5:46 AM Reply

    I’m liking them chopsticks!

    • gfy

      July 30, 2018 at 2:14 PM Reply

      ditto! while these look like maybe brass, I’ve got a stand of bamboo just that diameter out back and these have inspired me to attempt a DYI project! I think if I burn them ‘shou sugi ban’ style, it might work.

  • Pamela

    July 25, 2018 at 6:39 AM Reply

    Could I use real soy milk/tōnyū (豆乳) for this instead of whipping up some tofu? By real, I mean the sort that could still be used to make tofu, which is sold at tofu shops here in Japan or the tofu section of nice supermarkets?? Not that imposter posing as “soy milk” in the milk section? (To me that kind of “soy milk” is more like soy flavored water compared to the real thing!)

  • Dulcistella

    July 26, 2018 at 3:35 AM Reply

    Mandy, do you have a recipe to make tofu itself? Here in Italy it’s not a common ingredient, I don’t know it and so I’m not able to tell if what I buy is good or not. Some time ago a friend of mine made me taste some smoked tofu, and it was so smoky and salty that literally revolted me. I’m curious to try a good one.

  • Dennis Starks

    July 26, 2018 at 10:59 AM Reply

    You have such a unique voice. I savour every sassy existential turn of phrase you serve us. I am a professional chef and your recipes are a little briney and kombo-centric for my taste, but your creative process and the angst driven hoops you jump through to come up with your offerings are a balm to my jaded palette. Silken tofu and seppuku served up with every post. If I see another food blog extolling the joys of heirloom tomatos and basil I will throw my computer out the window. You are the antidote to the best cookie recipes that clog the internet. Keep up the good work.

    • kimithy

      September 7, 2018 at 11:36 PM Reply

      Ayup, I could have not have put this better. Hate to reply with a useless “ditto”, but there we have it :)

  • Charm

    July 26, 2018 at 11:32 AM Reply

    Hi Mandy,

    I really appreciate your honesty and candidness, so would love to see some basic recipes too! May I know if this can be made the day before and kept overnight as a lunchbox the next day? Thanks once again, am a huge fan of your blog.

    • mandy@ladyandpups

      July 26, 2018 at 12:04 PM Reply

      Charm, I haven’t tried keeping it overnight before. I’m wondering if the sauce will become watery (completely not sure). If you test it out, could you let me know the result?

      • Meg

        August 22, 2018 at 4:27 AM Reply

        So I tested this out, and I was hungry so I struggled to let things stop being cold let alone brought fully back to approximately room temperature, but I would definitely say the sauce remains pretty much the same thickness. It is a tad lumpy if still cold (almost like if you were eating cold macaroni and cheese, honestly) but it’s still delicious, and I noticed that it became much closer to the original texture as it warmed up.

        I will warn those who (like me) may still be learning how to keep tofu – unpackaged or opened tofu goes bad WICKED fast. Like, in my fridge, in potentially as little as two days. I would NOT recommend making this more than a day ahead because you’ll be racing the clock. The addition of salt and sugar may help stave off the turning of the tofu, but I would not rely on that.

  • Mai

    August 2, 2018 at 10:40 AM Reply

    Dear Mandy ,

    We just made your noodles tonight and we were pleasantly surprised at how creamy the sauce was just from the tofu. We added some extra sauté celery we had in the fridge too. This one will be on the rotation along with our other favorites from your site (gochuchang noodle, the miso meatball noodle dish and the express ramen). Thanks for all your hard work!

  • Inez

    November 9, 2018 at 4:53 AM Reply

    Your recipes are great, but what fascinates me more is how beautifully you word every article for each dish. It’s a joy to read them really. Love yr blog !!! ??

  • Haley

    March 29, 2019 at 2:12 AM Reply

    That looks absolutely amazing.

  • Maureen Himmel

    June 25, 2019 at 10:07 AM Reply

    Made this tonight: simple, delectable, satisfying. I may make it next week and the week after that.

  • Essee

    June 3, 2020 at 7:20 AM Reply

    I made this today (loosely following the recipe) and it was delicious and surprisingly cheesy! I’ve lactose and tolerate it this dish made me feel like I was indulging in cheese noddles :)
    Next time I think I’ll add umami notes in the tofu sauce (dried anchovy or mushroom powder)

  • Lydia

    June 28, 2020 at 3:17 AM Reply

    This was delicious! And a terrific change from my usual tofu dishes. I made this with 10oz silken tofu (but it was closer to medium) in the blender and it made more than enough sauce for 2 bunches of soba noodles. I’ll definitely be making this again and again :)

  • Caroline

    July 28, 2020 at 9:12 AM Reply

    I made this tonight– I think I used the wrong type of tofu (medium firm) because the sauce was pretty thick and my blender was having a hard time blending it. However, wow so creamy, thick, and savory! I ate this with soba noodles and some kimchi. I think this could be a good replacement for ricotta in things, too? Anyways, thanks for the recipe!

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