Two characteristics make this dish stand out. First, the contrasting textures of the fried tofu — soft inside but crisp outside because of the coating.
Second, the sauce in which the tofu is served. Most restaurants serve the sauce on the side as a dipping sauce. I think it’s better to let the tofu sit in the sauce. By itself, the fried tofu is bland but give it a chance to absorb the sauce and it becomes perfectly seasoned.
Okay, so how do we give tofu a great texture and how do we make a tasty sauce in which to let them sit?
First, remove as much water from the tofu as you possibly can. To do this, line a bowl with a stack of paper towels, drop in the tofu, cover with another stack of paper towels and weigh down with a plate or bowl. The process will take several minutes and you can use that time to make the sauce.
Pour dashi, soy sauce and mirin into a pot. Sake can be used in place of mirin. But because sake is not as sweet as mirin, you’ll have to add about a teaspoon of sugar to get a good balance of flavors.
Add ginger to the soy sauce, mirin and dashi mixture, and boil uncovered to reduce. How long the mixture should be boiled depends on how concentrated you want the flavor. Taste occasionally as the sauce boils and turn off the heat once you get the balance that you prefer.
By the time the sauce is done, the tofu should be dry on the surface. Cut it into cubes and dredge in starch. Remember, it’s starch, not wheat-based flour. The only acceptable flour that can be substituted is rice flour.
Deep fry the tofu cubes until the surface is crisp. Do this in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan. Overcrowding will make the temperature of the oil drop and you’ll get soggy tofu instead of crispy ones.
With the sauce done and the tofu fried, all you need to do is assemble the dish. Serve the tofu and sauce separately, if you wish, or place the tofu in a shallow bowl or deep plate and drizzle the sauce over them. Sliced scallions and bonito flakes are the traditional garnishes.
Full recipe below
- 1 cake kinugoshi or “cotton” tofu - about 300 grams
- 1 cup dashi
- 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- ½ cup potato starch - or corn starch
- 2 to 4 cups cooking oil - for frying
- sliced scallions - to garnish
- bonito flakes - to garnish
Prepare the tofu
- Place the tofu between two stacks of paper towels.
- Place a bowl on top and leave to allow the paper towels to absorb excess moisture.
Make the sauce
- Pour the dashi, soy sauce and mirin into a small pot.
- Stir in the grated ginger.
- Boil the sauce for about five minutes to reduce and heighten the flavors then set aside to cool.
Fry the tofu
- Cut the tofu into cubes.
- Place the starch in a shallow bowl and gently roll each tofu cube to completely coat the outside. Shake off any excess.
- Pour enough cooking oil into a wok or frying pan to reach a depth of at least three inches. Heat until wisps of smoke float on the surface.
- Fry the tofu, in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, just until the coating turns crisp, about two to three minutes per batch.
Serve the agedashi tofu
- Arrange the cooked tofu in a shallow bowl.
- Drizzle the sauce over and around the fried tofu.
- Garnish with bonito flakes and sliced scallions.