This simple appetizer is a flavorful combination of braised tofu, white radish (daikon), and konbu (kelp) all simmered in a classic savory Taiwanese sauce. The lu wei method plus the konbu create this traditional dish’s rich umami flavors. It’s a delicious appetizer, side dish, or meal served with rice or noodles.
I'll walk you through where to find the right ingredients for this dish and how to prepare them so that you can make this Taiwanese night market food anytime.
I made this specific recipe for Food+Planet's Blue Foods As Medicine Cookbook. It's available for free, by the way, so check it out for some amazing sustainable recipes by a variety of talented chefs.
✨ why you'll love this recipe
It's a simple dish packed with umami thanks to the konbu! Sometimes called kombu, this dried edible kelp or seaweed is widely eaten in East Asian cuisines. As a chef and dietitian, I've shared it with the Martha Stewart publication and Forbes Health as one of my favorite nutrient-rich foods.
This braised tofu, konbu, and white radish (滷豆乾海帶, 滷蘿蔔) dish is the perfect accompaniment to your favorite cozy soup and a bowl of rice.
The Taiwanese braising method - 滷味 (lǔ wèi) - is essential in elevating the natural flavors of the ingredients. The braising liquid is savory and light in flavor, and the spices are subtle, with cilantro bringing it all together!
This method is also used to braise daikon radish, which becomes succulent with flavor and braised bean curd (a type of tofu).
It's a popular dish served at Taiwanese beef noodle soup shops, night market stands, and many casual restaurants in Taiwan. At home, I enjoy having it with soup, a main dish, and rice, but it’s also a great pairing with other Taiwanese side dishes like this Din Tai Fung copycat cucumber salad or air fryer roasted Japanese sweet potato.
💭 what is lu wei?
Lu wei (滷味) is a popular Taiwanese food preparation method where ingredients such as tofu, bean curd, konbu, seaweed, radish, hard-boiled eggs, and meats including offal parts are simmered in an aromatic, umami-rich liquid.
This specific combination of braised foods is called ló͘ tāu-hū chhài-thâu khòng-buh in Taiwanese Taigi or lǔ dòu gān hǎidài luóbo in Mandarin, Chinese.
The liquid is made with a combination of spices like star anise and cinnamon, along with soy sauce, garlic, water, and a bit of sugar and oil. It's then simmered until it becomes a savory, slightly sweet, gourmet-tasting sauce.
This specific recipe is meant to be a simplified, short cut version of the traditional lu wei side dish so you can make some homestyle lǔ wèi (家常滷味) when the craving hits!
📋 key ingredients
Below are the ingredients you'll need for the lu wei braising liquid and the vegetable-based ingredients that will absorb those delicious flavors!
- konbu – make sure you're getting the larger thick pieces of kelp as shown in the photo above. You may find it's also labeled as dried kelp, hǎidài (海帶 in Chinese), kombu (昆布 in Japanese), or dasima (다시마 in Korean). It's a sea vegetable that you can get online at Weee! (paid link) or Amazon (paid link) if it's not at your local grocery store.
- canola oil – or another neutral flavored oil like peanut oil will work too.
- aromatics – ginger, star anise, and cinnamon stick are the bare minimum for this dish.
- soy sauce – I use low-sodium soy sauce so I can control the amount of salt that goes into the dish. The Kimlan brand (paid link) is used in many Taiwanese dishes and has a specific flavor profile that contribute to the flavors we grew up with.
- sugar – I prefer granulated cane sugar in Taiwanese recipes. The mellow sweetness makes a difference. Traditionally, rock sugar is used.
- water – for the braising liquid + more for soaking the kelp.
- white daikon radish – this radish is more widely available at all grocery stores now. Otherwise, a local Taiwanese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese grocery store will carry it or you can find it online at: 99 Ranch Market (has a delivery app - iOS or Android - and currently has stores in CA, OR, WA, NV, TX, NJ, MA, MD, and VA), or Weee! (paid link). See this guide on picking non-fibrous daikon radish.
- five spice tofu – sometimes labeled as "marinated/spiced bean curd" or "dry tofu." You can find it on Amazon (paid link) or for much cheaper on Weee! and at your local Asian grocery store in the refrigerated section where other tofu products are located.
- cilantro – although optional, I highly recommend including it.
See the recipe card for quantities.
- tofu - extra firm or medium firm tofu can be used in place of the five-spice tofu, but the flavor will be lighter.
- gluten-free - use a Taiwanese soy sauce that's brewed without wheat, or opt for tamari.
- protein - use your braising liquid to braise the protein of your choice. Soft boiled eggs and beef are especially delicious braised, but you can also use peanuts.
- different vegetables - make braised carrots or even potatoes.
- toppings - drizzle soy bean paste on top of the finished dish for added flavor – just like how it's served in Taiwan!
I’m going to go through each step in detail below, including step-by-step photos. In a hurry? You can jump straight to the printable recipe.
Begin by soaking your dried kelp to make it pliable.
In a large dish or bowl, fully submerge 2 ounces of dried kelp/konbu (about 6 sheets or 57 grams) in cold water and soak for 10 minutes.
Once pliable, remove sheets from water, and cut them crosswise into 3-inch long pieces. Fold each piece into 1-inch wide strips.
Make three stacks of 4-5 strips and secure them together by skewering with a toothpick.
Alternatively, you can tie kitchen twine around each stack of kelp.
Save the soaking water from kelp/konbu to use in soups or sauces later. It'll add extra umami to a dish.
Prepare the other ingredients.
Wash and peel 1 medium (about 1 pound or 450 grams) white daikon radish. Cut the radish in half lengthwise.
Then cut into 1½ -inch thick half moon pieces.
If needed, cut the block of five spice tofu into four square pieces.
Cut each piece of five spice tofu in half. Each 8-ounce (230-gram) package usually comes with 4 pieces. Cutting them in half will allow you to fit all the ingredients into a smaller saucepan. Alternatively, you can leave them whole.
Then, start mixing the braising liquid.
In a medium saucepan (3-quart), heat 1 tablespoon canola oil with the sliced ginger (from a 1½-inch piece), 1 star anise, and 1 cinnamon stick over medium-low heat until the ginger is fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 3 cups water, then stir and add the prepared kelp, radish, and tofu. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir periodically to ensure the ingredients are submerged in the braising liquid.
pro tip: In restaurants, the tofu or bean curd is typically first simmered in salted water for 5-10 minutes. This infuses the tofu with extra seasoning before braising it. You can choose to try this method or add the tofu directly into the braising liquid.
To serve, remove toothpicks or twine from the braised kelp and cut each strip into ½-inch ribbons.
Cut the braised five spice tofu into ¼-inch thick slices (or serve as is if using extra firm tofu). Transfer the tofu, radish, and kelp onto a platter and top with 1 tablespoon of braising liquid and fresh cilantro, if using.
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Most of the equipment used in this recipe will already be in your kitchen, but I've included links to my favorite items in case you need to add them to your repertoire.
The braising liquid can be reused one more time. Allow to cool, store in a covered container, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. It works well with carrots, dried shiitake mushrooms, and peanuts as well.
As for the braised konbu, tofu, and daikon radish, they're best enjoyed immediately. Store leftovers in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.
Thankfully, if you have leftover braising liquid you can whip up this dish easily!
💭 top expert tip
You can braise the dish for longer, but make sure the ingredients are covered by the braising liquid at all times (add more liquid if needed).
I like to make this in my Tatung cooker (paid link) sometimes and leave it steaming in the braising liquid for an additional 30 minutes. Just make sure to check to make sure the outer pot has enough water for steam as well.
Yes, kombu is the Japanese word for kelp. It's used in East Asian cuisines among others.
It’s a traditional Taiwanese and Chinese method of cooking where one braises food in a flavorful liquid usually containing soy sauce, sugar, ginger, aromatic spices, oil, and either water or stock.
👨🍳 COOKING WITH KIDS
What can kid chefs help with?
- soaking and folding the konbu
- adding the braising liquid ingredients to the pot (away from the stove)
- washing radish, ginger, and cilantro
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.
Happy cooking! ~ Cindy 周昀
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taiwanese-style braised tofu, white radish, konbu (lu wei)
- 2 ounces dried kelp (konbu or kombu), about 6 sheets (57 grams)
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1½ inch piece ginger, thinly sliced
- 1 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce (Kimlan preferred)
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 cups water, plus more for soaking kelp
- 1 medium white daikon radish, (about 1 pound), peeled, and cut into 1½ -inch thick half moon pieces
- 1 (8-ounce) package five spice tofu, cut in half (may substitute with extra-firm tofu, cut into 2 x 2 x 1-inch pieces)
- 5 sprigs fresh cilantro, (about 2 tablespoons), leaves and stems coarsely chopped (optional)
*The Instacart button above is an affiliate link, which means we do make a small profit from your purchases (your price is not affected by this commission).
- In a large dish or bowl, fully submerge the 2 ounces dried kelp (konbu or kombu) in cold water and soak for 10 minutes. Once pliable, remove sheets from water, and cut them crosswise into 3-inch long pieces. Fold each piece into 1-inch wide strips. Make three stacks of 4-5 strips and secure them together by skewering with a toothpick. Alternatively, you can tie kitchen twine around each stack of kelp. The soaking water for the kelp can be saved to use in soups or sauces later.
- In a medium saucepan (3-quart), heat 1 tablespoon canola oil with the sliced ginger, star anise, and cinnamon stick over medium-low heat until the ginger is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce (Kimlan preferred), 2 tablespoons sugar, and 3 cups water, then stir and add the prepared kelp, radish, and tofu. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Stir periodically to ensure the ingredients are submerged in the braising liquid.
- To serve, remove toothpicks or twine from the braised kelp and cut each strip into ½-inch ribbons. Cut the braised five spice tofu into ¼-inch thick slices (or serve as is if using extra firm tofu). Transfer the tofu, radish, and kelp onto a platter and top with 1 tablespoon of braising liquid and cilantro, if using.
equipment and highlighted ingredients
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🌡️ food safety
- Wash hands before handling ready-to-serve items, such as the already braised ingredients
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- See more guidelines at USDA.gov.