Burmese Tofu (a.k.a. Chickpea Flour Tofu)

February 22, 2017
3 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes one 8- by 8-inch pan
Author Notes

Chickpeas can do a lot, but chickpea flour? It might be even more versatile. In the case of Burmese tofu (also known as Shan tofu for the state in the northeast part of the country where it originated), chickpea flour gets mixed with water and cooked into a gruel that resembles polenta. It's then transferred to a pan, where it cools into a firm but forgiving block that also resembles... well... polenta—but with a smooth jiggle and a nutty, bitter edge that makes it enjoyable to eat as-is, cube by cube.

It's got what I've always longed for from flabby, supermarket soy tofu (and polenta, too, for that matter): bold flavor, velvety texture. And, unlike tofu, it's easy to make at home.

This recipe is barely adapted from Sarah Britton of My New Roots, who followed a recipe on NetCooks from Christina Aung. —Sarah Jampel

What You'll Need
  • 1 1/2 cups (175 grams) chickpea flour (or besan)
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
  1. In a very large bowl, stir together the chickpea flour and the water until no dry spots remain. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave undisturbed for 8 to 12 hours.
  2. By this point, the mixture will have separated and you'll have a fair amount of cloudy water on top. Use a ladle to remove 6 cups of that water from the top of the bowl. Line an 8- by 8-inch baking pan with cheesecloth or a dish towel you don't care about staining.
  3. In a medium saucepan, melt the oil or ghee over medium heat. Pour the remaining liquid from the top of the bowl into the pan (it's okay if you have to leave a little of it behind) and add the salt, turmeric, and garlic powder and whisk to combine. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes, until the mixture simmers and thickens.
  4. Now pour in the chickpea sludge. The mixture will start to thicken instantly. Whisk for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and starting to pull away from the pan.
  5. Pour the thickened chickpea mixture into the pan and smooth out the top. Fold the edges of the cheesecloth or towel over top and let sit at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours.
  6. Flip the pan onto a cutting board, pull away the cloth, and slice into cubes or strips. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.
  7. I pan-fried pieces in a non-stick pan in a bit of hot olive oil, which made them crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside, but the tofu is good as-is, too. (I had a bit of trouble pan-frying the tofu in pans that were not non-stick.)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mayra
  • Stephanie B.
    Stephanie B.
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
  • Ann Sawyer
    Ann Sawyer

17 Reviews

Emily October 26, 2021
This reminds me of garantita - a baked chickpea flour dish often found as street food in Algeria. Makes great sandwiches with a bit of harissa as well. I believe they have a similar one through the Mediterranean region. I’d love to know more about the Burmese version and it’s origins!
Anjali February 26, 2018
Do you have to use filtered or un chlorinated water? For any fermenting that's what I usually use. Excited to try this recipe. Thanks, Anjali
Sarah J. February 26, 2018
I used tap water.
Mayra September 23, 2017
Step 2: wouldn't that be 3 cups of water (instead of 6)?
Alexa March 6, 2017
Just wondering what the point of soaking it is? I've made it a bunch of times without soaking the flour and it's turned out great! Also, I had trouble separating out the sludge from the water after 12 hours...I felt like I was wasting a lot of the chickpea flour so I just reduced all 7 1/2 cups of water until it was the right consistency. Turned out great but I think it tastes the same when I make it without soaking the flour overnight, using half the water and cooking for 20 minutes instead of over an hour...
Sarah J. March 6, 2017
Hi Alexa, I felt the same way, but when I tried both techniques side by side and found that the tofu made with the soaked chickpea flour, which has the chance to ferment, had a much more pronounced flavor and a firmer, heartier texture (I wrote a bit about that here: it's good to know that it tasted the same to you, though! And that it works to add all of the water and then reduce it down. Thank you for the suggestions!
Alexa March 6, 2017
Sure thing!
Ann S. June 23, 2019
Ha! And I left mine soaking 24 hrs because I was too lazy to finish it at the 12 hr mark (which would have been 2am, otherwise known as the middle of the night for me!). It came out just fine. But I'll try not soaking next time just to compare.
Stephanie B. March 4, 2017
My liquid thickened way before 20 min in step 3, anyone else had this?
Carol February 4, 2018
Yes, I did too. I was also curious to know the average amount of liquid that should be left after removing the first 6 cups.
Stephanie B. April 7, 2018
I'm not sure, because I had a hard time removing 6 cups without scooping out a lot of chickpea flour. I haven't made this in a while (though I'm trying a no overnight soak way now because I forgot to soak last night) but I think I usually scoop out as much water as I can without getting rid of too much chickpea, then just cook from there. I don't think I've ever been able to remve more than 4-5c without dumping chickpea flour down the drain, and it still thickens quickly.
Ann S. June 23, 2019
Mine too, very quickly. I kept it on the stove for 7 or so minutes out of concern but it was ready after 5.
joslin February 26, 2017
I make burmese tofu a lot and I love it. This is a new version and I immediately put my besan to soak! Just for everyone's use, chickpea tofu does freeze well. The texture changes a bit but not so much that it renders it useless, and its definitely ok for cooked recipes. This is important because it has a short shelf life and the recipe makes a very big dish. I don't like soy so I use this for just about every tofu recipe that I know of! Looking forward to trying this recipe tomorrow! Thank you Sarah Jampel and Food52!
BarbaraM February 25, 2017
Recently spent a month in Myanmar where I tried Shan tofu for the first time. They do a version of Shan noodles with 'melted tofu' on top which is amazing! It's basically silky smooth molten tofu on top of noodles, and I think it would work really well as a substitute for bechamel sauce in a vegan lasagna for instance. It's on my 'recipes to research list' for when I come back home, but I'd be interested to hear how the tofu comes out before step 5 of the recipe from anyone who makes it.
erin February 23, 2017
I'd love to try this. Do you have a recipe for the dish it's shown with in the photo? I don't know much about Burmese food but I'd love to have a go - it looks beautiful.
Sarah J. February 23, 2017
Hi erin! There's actually an article going up at 1 PM about the recipe. The salad is just red-leaf lettuce, thin rice noodles (soaked), shaved carrots, pan-fried chickpea tofu, and a simple dressing of lime juice, soy sauce, hot sauce, chile oil, and sesame seeds.
erin February 23, 2017
I see it now - thanks! Really excited to try this. It's outside of my usual remit but seems do-able and looks delicious.