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4.78 from 9 votes

Three Cup (San Bei) Tofu - 三杯豆腐

A meatless version of our family's favorite Taiwanese dish that is made from tofu and packed with the aromatic Thai Basil and sautéed ginger.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Asian, Chinese
Keyword: comfortfood, thai basil, tofu
Servings: 3
Author: woonheng


  • 14 oz [397g]firm tofu drained
  • 8-10 slices [35g] ginger
  • 5 cloves garlic sliced
  • 1 red jalapenõ chopped (or any chili)
  • 1 cup packed fresh Thai basil sub with basil or adjust to your preference
  • corn starch for coating
  • a handful of chopped scallion/green onion
  • oil for cooking


  • 3 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine Michiu or use rice wine/dry sherry⁣/vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce⁣ or tamari
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil⁣
  • ½ tablespoon sugar⁣
  • cup [80g] water⁣


  • Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl until well combined and set aside.
  • To prepare the tofu, pat the tofu dry with paper towels and cut into cubes or rectangle slices, about 1cmm thick.
  • Place ¼ cup corn starch in a shallow plate or baking sheet pan. Then, coat the slices generously with corn starch, making sure all sides have a thin layer of starch.
  • Preheat the air-fryer using the fries settings (390F).
  • Brush the top side of the tofu with a thin layer of oil. Then, grease the inner air-fryer rack.
  • Using a tong or a pair of chopsticks, transfer tofu slices onto the greased rack in a single layer.
  • Air-fry tofu slices until golden brown, about 4-8 minutes. Check periodically and flip if needed. To pan-fry the tofu, please check the section 'Crispy Tofu - 2 ways' or notes below.
  • Transfer the air-fried tofu to a cookie rack to cool while you work on the next batch.
  • To cook the tofu, heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of oil. Then, sauté ginger slices until the sides turn crispy and aromatic.
  • Add the garlic and chopped chile and continue to cook until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Pour in the sauce and cook until the sugar has melted.
  • Add the tofu slices then toss everything to combine. If you prefer not to serve it in a clay pot, then add the Thai basil along with the tofu and continue to cook until the sauce has reduced.
  • To cook the tofu in claypot: Heat a claypot and add a drizzle of oil. Then, sauté green onions and half of the Thai basil until aromatic.
  • Transfer the tofu into the clay pot then top with the remaining Thai basil, cover and cook it over low heat for another 1- 2 minutes. This step will create a charred bottom which give the tofu a more flavorful taste.
  • Turn off the heat and serve warm with rice.



I've shared a version of the pan-fried version on May,2020. Today's post is updated with an air-fried version. Thank you!
  • How to Pan-fry tofu
    • Prepare tofu similar to Step 2 and 3
    • Heat a large skillet with a thin layer of oil
    • Shallow pan-fry the tofu until golden brown. Remove & set aside.
    • Continue to Step 9