I appreciate how unpretentious tofu appears in Asian cuisine. Shorn of the “health food” and “meat substitute” labels, here in the Far East, tofu is often served as a side to meat, if not found paired in the same dish. Though I consider this dish a main course, it can certainly be altered to make a lovely side. I must admit, however, that to demote this dish cheats one of a beautiful presentation.
To sate my more Western palette, I contributed the addition of garlic and increased the amount of ginger in Taro’s recipe. Light soy sauce was also switched to dark, based on preference. The complimentary vegetables can be interchanged to suit taste and availability, but should be of neutral flavors, to not overwhelm the sauce.
Although this entree is known as agedashi tofu (fried tofu), Westerners may find the tofu more akin to pan seared, the frying being so brief as to only achieve a slightly-crispy, delicate skin.
Ingredients (serves 2)
250 grams silken tofu
starch (potato or corn) for coating the tofu
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon mirin
3-4 tablespoons high smoke point oil, such as grapeseed
2-3 tablespoons dashi (kelp stock)
1 tablespoon green onions, chopped
Dried nori (optional garnish)
Complimentary steamed or sauteed vegetables, such as enokotaki or shiitake mushrooms, non-spicy peppers, julienned zucchini
First, make the dashi. If using dashi powder, 1/2 tsp should be sufficient for 1 cup or more dashi. If using dried kelp, put one 4 inch piece of the kelp into 3 cups of cool water. Gently heat it until it just comes to a boil before switching the heat off. Heating for too long or at a too-high temperature can cause a more fishy taste to develop. Set aside the dashi that you need, freeze the leftover dashi or store in the refrigerator for up to two days
Next, gently wrap the silken tofu in a paper towel and let sit for 10-15 minutes, to draw out excess water.
Meanwhile, add the mirin, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and dashi to a sauce pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, before taking it off the heat.
Carefully remove the paper towel and slice the tofu into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll the tofu pieces in the starch, coating all sides completely.
Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Gingerly, place the tofu in the pan. Cook no more than 20 seconds on each side. Cooking chopsticks are quite helpful for this part. Place finished tofu on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Arrange two pieces of tofu and some assorted vegetables on each plate, spoon over the sauce, and sprinkle chopped green onions and dried nori (if desired) on top.