San Bei (Taiwanese Three Cup) Tofu and Ramen

June 22, 2021
5 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

A traditional Taiwanese sauce meets ramen.

San bei translates to "three cups" in Chinese and refers to the equal amounts of sesame oil, soy sauce, and cooking wine used to make the extremely aromatic san bei sauce. When making san bei tofu the other day according to Kitty's Home Cooking, I found myself with a lot of extra sauce in the end and decided to try adding some ramen noodles and a soft-boiled egg. I am still dreaming of that delicious experiment to this day. —Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: The Cooking of Joy is a food blogger "trying to cook like her mom."
WHAT: A super-simple sauce of equal parts sesame oil, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine, tossed with ramen noodles and served with pan-fried tofu (and a soft-boiled egg, to boot).
HOW: Pan-fry thick slices of tofu, then make the aromatic "three-cup" sauce. Toss it over ramen noodles with a handful Thai basil and serve with the tofu and a soft egg. Sigh deeply.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Squiggly ramen noodles, a punchy sauce (especially for so few ingredients), tender tofu, and a soft egg—it's about as comforting as it gets, and would make a killer quick dinner or a very Not Sad Desk Lunch. If you think you'd prefer the sauce a little looser and more broth-like, cut the cornstarch. Or add even more greens (extra Thai basil or a big handful of spinach would brighten it lots). —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 12 ounces package extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 5 slices fresh ginger
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon rock sugar or raw sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • A large handful of Thai basil leaves
  • 6 ounces ramen noodles or thin yellow noodles
  • 2 soft-boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
  1. Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully slice into thick slices. [Editors' note: We sliced them about 1/2 inch thick.] Heat a medium pan on medium high and add the vegetable oil. Pan fry the tofu slices for several minutes on each side until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and let drain.
  2. Remove any excess oil in the pan and then add the sesame oil. Stir fry the ginger and garlic over low heat until fragrant. Add the soy sauce, cooking wine, rock sugar, water, and the tofu slices. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat, simmering for about 7 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook the ramen noodles until just done. Drain and transfer into two bowls.
  4. Mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and add to the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil again and stir until slightly thickened. Add the Thai basil leaves and cook for another minute until wilted. Ladle the tofu and sauce over the cooked ramen noodles and garnish with the soft-boiled eggs.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • AntoniaJames
  • em-i-lis
  • Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
    Joy Huang | The Cooking of Joy
  • Asha Loupy
    Asha Loupy
  • anna

19 Reviews

Jenn K. June 4, 2018
This was fantastic except that the tofu stuck to my stainless pan pretty badly - I'll go non-stick next time. I cut the soy sauce back by a tablespoon too and liked it that way. I served it with some bok choy that I just blanched in the same pot as the noodles. Definitely going in the rotation!
AntoniaJames January 24, 2018
I made this again last night using "medium" tofu, preparing it using the method recommended by Andrea Nguyen in her banh mi cookbook. You pour boiling water over tofu in a bowl, letting it sit for 15 minutes before using, to firm it up. Even with "medium" tofu, you don't need to press it. Nguyen recommends salting the water, but with all the sodium in the sauce in this recipe, it's really not necessary (or advisable, one would think).

I cooked the tofu, after soaking, on medium heat, just leaving the little bricks alone until they were light tan on one side; then I flipped them over. The edges crisped up beautifully. You could actually see the moisture from the cubes evaporating, due to the change in structure caused by the boiling water soak.

The result? A lovely custardy, flavorful interior.

While the tofu was soaking, I quickly sliced a head of napa cabbage and steamed that in the skillet with a touch of water, as well as some dark green and white baby bok choy and some broccoli - which I put in big bowls with the ramen, tofu and sauce for a hearty but light one-bowl supper. Quite the success, and so easy. ;o)
teagan August 26, 2017
Hi , looks like a lovely recipe. However it shouldn't be under the vegan category. *eggs*
Marilyn July 26, 2016
I made this tonight and loved it! It's an easy recipe to add to your repertoire.
em-i-lis July 7, 2016
This looks wonderful! I can't wait to try it!
Joy H. July 8, 2016
CanadaDan July 7, 2016
why thoughts about substituting the chinese cooking wine with mirin? I have the latter in my fridge but not the former...
Joy H. July 7, 2016
The mirin that I'm familiar with has a lot of sugar/corn syrup in it so I wouldn't recommend using it as a substitute. A dry sherry might be a better substitution.
Anne M. July 6, 2016
Looking forward to among this. Do you recommend specific brands of Chinese cooking wine? I have been cautioned against using the brands that have salt so have substituted dry sherry but would like to stay close to the source and use the recommended ingredients. Thanks and congrats!
Joy H. July 7, 2016
Thanks! I don't have any recommendations; I just usually look for one that has more Chinese than English on it, hahaha.
anna December 15, 2021
I love Shao Hsing rice cooking wine. You could probably find it at your local Asian market!
Joy H. July 3, 2016
I just noticed that the recipe calls for "extra firm tofu" but it should actually be "extra firm SILKEN tofu". The texture makes a huge difference, so make sure you make it with the right kind!
txchick57 July 2, 2016
I made this recipe last week. It was very good.
Joy H. July 2, 2016
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it! :)
Janifer K. July 4, 2016
Look so good! Can't wait to tryout
Asha L. July 1, 2016
This looks delicious and I can't wait to make it. Congratulations on being a finalist, The Cooking of Joy!
Joy H. July 1, 2016
Thanks, you too! I can't wait to try your recipe, too!
AntoniaJames July 1, 2016
Mmmm. Nice! Congrats, The Cooking of Joy. ;o)
Joy H. July 1, 2016