Tofu Nao, a Northern China breakfast dish

Even though Yuye and I are both from mainland China, we sometimes have quite different eating habits. For example, as he’s from northern China, he tends to eat a lot of dumplings, buns and congee with his stir fries and other dishes. Whereas my family and I tend to just eat it with rice and instead of dumplings we eat wontons. Shanghainese food tend to be a bit lighter, a bit sweeter and perhaps a bit more sour as well compared to food from Beijing.

Another thing that is different is breakfast. According to Yuye, people from Beijing eat a lot of this dish called Dou Fu Nao, its literal translation is “tofu brain”, I suppose it might have came about from its appearance. It is a light soupy dish made with tofu, peanut butter, coriander and soy sauce. It’s not a dish we eat in Shanghai, although we do have a tofu dish that we eat for breakfast which tastes very different.

As I love peanut butter, I fell in love with this light meal instantly and Yuye has made it many times since. This love for peanut butter might run in the family as my mum would literally scoop a small bowl of salted peanut butter and eat it with her congee in the morning. Whenever I walk past the bowl, I’d steal a little spoonful of that nutty goodness. I’d even deliberately walk past just to have a mouthful, until mum noticed that her peanut butter was disappearing! I know it might be hard to comprehend but I enjoy these little self indulgences. 😛

It is a very healthy, refreshing and easy to make recipe. You can add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like.

Tofu Nao
Serves 2

• 200g silken tofu
• half bunch coriander, chopped to roughly 1cm lengths
• 1 tbsp cornflour
• 1 tbsp chilli paste
• 1 tbsp oyster sauce
• 2 tbsp light soy sauce
• 1 tsp chicken powder
• 1 tsp sesame oil
• 1 tsp ginger, finely chopped
• 1 egg
• 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
• Salt


1. Combine peanut butter with 2 tbsp of cold water and stir until smooth. Set aside.
2. Add chicken powder, soy sauce, oyster sauce and ginger to 1 litre of boiling water and boil on medium high heat for 3 minutes.
3. Dissolve cornflour in 1 tbsp of cold water and add to soup.
4. Beat egg and stir into soup. Reduce heat to medium.
5. Using a spoon, break tofu into large chunks into the soup. Salt to taste and simmer for 3 minutes.
6. Turn off the heat, and stir in sesame oil.
7. Top with prepared peanut paste, chilli and chopped coriander and serve.

For added flavour, try frying the ginger along with 2 cloves of chopped garlic and 1/2 a thinly sliced spring onion before adding stock.

Question: What kind of things do you normally eat for breakfast? Is it quite different to your partner?

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17 comments… add one
  • Jill | Dulce Dough July 27, 2012, 4:55 am

    What an interesting post! Looks and sounds delicious!

  • Julie July 27, 2012, 4:28 pm

    Love hearing about different regions how they eat. I haven’t even heard of this and they use peanut butter wow! mind blown

  • Ali July 27, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Great looking breakfast…a lot different to what I would eat…I’m fairly happy with cereal and a bit of fruit (and a cuppa tea, also!)…my partner would eat eggs benedict every day if he was allowed!!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella July 27, 2012, 8:22 pm

    I’ve never heard of this dish before but I love peanut butter so I can imagine I’d really like this! And I’m going to try putting a scoop of PB in my congee next time! 🙂

  • love2dine July 27, 2012, 8:37 pm

    i love to try it.. never have it before but it sure looks tasty.

  • Ames July 27, 2012, 10:15 pm

    This looks great! I’m a lover of peanut butter too 😀

  • The Squishy Monster July 28, 2012, 6:09 am

    I could totally have this for breakfast…and lunch and dinner easily too! I adore tofu and have never had it like this before..thank you for sharing , my friend! I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  • yummychunklet July 28, 2012, 6:38 am

    I bet this is delicious and comforting.

  • Maureen July 28, 2012, 12:22 pm

    My daughter-in-law is from Taiwan and her breakfasts used to look like this but since she’s lived so long in Atlanta, she’s moved away from the healthy dishes of her youth.

    This looks great.

  • Libby July 28, 2012, 4:41 pm

    I’ve been eating all manners of oats and porridge for breakfast lately but this looks better haha – and perfect for winter. Yumm-o!

  • kitchenriffs July 30, 2012, 3:21 am

    Peanut butter is the best! I’ve never had it with tofu though – sounds like a fun combo. China is so big, and each region has its own cuisine – and they’re all great. So much to learn about, though. Thanks for a great post.

  • Daisy@Nevertoosweet July 30, 2012, 3:56 pm

    LOVE your photos hehe even though i tell you that a lot 😛 I remember my dad telling me he ate this as a child when he was growing up hehe 🙂 Great recipe!

  • Agnes August 5, 2012, 10:15 pm

    Oh I LOVE peanut butter. I’ve never tried this – I’ll have to make it sometime.

  • choux choux August 11, 2012, 12:31 pm

    OMG my mum does the same thing with peanut butter and congee! This dish looks yum as!

  • Steve v April 14, 2018, 10:54 pm

    Thanks for this, I have taken your recipe and made a veganised version for breakfast a few times now. Lovely comforting food.


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