Introduction: How to Make Japanese Tofu and Noodle Soup

About: Inventor and Emergency Doctor.

My Japanese tofu and noodle soup is ideal when you want a warm, filling, rich, vegetarian and vegan meal which is unusual but not too spicy. This recipe gives you a lovely soup which isn't too strong on flavours. I made this mild for the family; if you want a medium strength spice flavour I would suggest doubling the quantities of spices. If you like it really spicy then triple them!

I used firm silken tofu; use your favourite. The softer varieties aren't ideal as they are likely to disintegrate when you bake or fry them. I also used white organic miso; again, you can use whichever you prefer. I used dried shiitake mushrooms which I rehydrated. Fresh is an ideal alternative. The Chinese 5 spice I used is my own mix which combines fennel seed, cloves, cinnamon, szechuan peppercorns and star anise.

The recipe includes brown rice noodles which created a thick glutinous soup; you could use plain white rice noodles for a less glutinous sauce if you prefer. Three very small birds eye chillies gave a gentle, warm heat to the soup. Add more according to taste. You can do a lot of the prep after the cooking has begun.

The brown rice noodles I used swelled a lot during cooking so I found that 5 portions were plenty for 6 large portions of soup. If you are using white rice noodles they will swell less and you are likely to need 6 portions according to the instructions.

Serves 6

Preparation time 20 mins

Cooking time 30 mins


  • 600g tofu
  • 25g dried Japanese sea vegetable salad
  • 6 whole star anise
  • Heaped teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
  • 2 tablespoons white miso
  • A medium onion
  • 2 dessertspoons soy sauce
  • 15 shiitake mushrooms
  • 5 - 6 portions rice noodles
  • 2 dessertspoons vegetable oil
  • 3 small red birds' eye chillis

Step 1: The Mushrooms

If you are using dried shiitake mushrooms they will need soaking. The instructions on mine said to add them to boiled water and leave for half an hour. Check the instructions on yours. The water takes on a lovely, rich mushroom flavour you can use as stock for the soup. I used half a litre of water to soak the mushrooms.

Step 2: The Tofu

Add a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to a baking tray. Cut the tofu into 10-12 equal thickness slices. These were 8-10mm thick using a standard sized block of tofu. The children were only having a slice each so I cut it into 10 slices, if you are serving 6 adults you will need to cut it into 12 slices.

Put the tofu in the oven at 180 degrees for half an hour. Check they are not sticking every 10 minutes or so. I used a silicon spatula to gently loosen them. They will brown on the underside first; to brown both sides turn them over gently so they don't break.

Step 3: The Onion

Peel and finely chop the onion.

Step 4: The Spices

Finely grind the spices.

Step 5: The Mushrooms 2

Chop the mushrooms after soaking for half an hour. Save the water.

Step 6: Add Ingredients to the Pan

Find a large pan and add the mushroom stock with another half litre of water, bring to the boil. Add the onion, spices, two tablespoons vegetable oil, two tablespoons of miso and the sea vegetable salad. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Step 7: Add Soy and Noodles

Add two tablespoons soy sauce and the noodles. Bring to a simmer. and cook for another 10 minutes. Top up with boiling water to keep the soupy consistency. I used about 1.75l water in the end, you might need a different amount depending on your noodles. Brown noodles absorb a lot of water so I had to keep topping it up. You can make it thicker or thinner, depending on your preference; don't add too much at a time, once you have added it you can't take it out!

Step 8: Serve!

Add the soup to your favourite bowls, allowing one star anise per serving for decoration. Place the tofu on the top and grind some black pepper over the surface and you are done.