Wensi Tofu

A soup made of finely shredded tofu and other ingredients of different colors, Wensi Tofu is a time-honored dish in southern China’s Jiangsu cuisine.

During the rule of Qing Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), a monk from the Tianning Temple in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province, became renowned for making vegetarian dishes, particularly those with tofu. As the temple received high numbers of Buddhists throughout the year, he devised many recipes for tofu. One of them is a soup whose ingredients include tender tofu, dried daylily and black fungus. Savory and brightly colored, it was popular with diners at the temple. It soon became known throughout the whole region by the apt name of Wensi Tofu.

During a visit to Yangzhou, Emperor Qianlong tried this soup and thought highly of it. It then entered the menu of the imperial family.

How to make it:

Choose tofu with a soft texture. Cut into the thinnest possible slices, arranging them like steps, then shred. Place the tofu into a bowl with water, and shake to loosen the shreds.

Place the pot of broth on a high flame, and add shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and shredded ham. When it boils, skim off the froth and sprinkle in some salt. Add the tofu, and stir using a spoon to separate, without breaking the thin tofu shreds. Slowly pour in some cornstarch mixed with water. When the soup becomes transparent and thickens, add chopped daylily, salt, and a dash of sesame oil.

The silky tofu, which an experienced chef can chop hair-thin, immediately melts when placed into the mouth. Its sweetish flavor is enriched but not obscured by the refreshing aroma of the bamboo shoots, daylilies, shiitake mushrooms, black fungus and ham, leaving a lingering toothsome aftertaste.