The rules of making Agedashi Tofu
By Stefanie Chao - Wednesday, Aug 29, 2012
How can something so plain and soft like tofu, be so silky crisp, creamy, delicate and yet be rich with umami all at once?
Elevate the humble bean curd to a sensational level by preparing the well-loved Japanese dish of Agedashi Tofu. This is popular must-have appetiser in almost every Japanese restaurant menu requires some time and patience to make, but it’s a cinch to put together once you know a few basic rules when making – like draining the tofu’s excess moisture with paper towels.
‘Age’ (ah-gei) means deep-fried in Japanese and ‘dashi’, is in reference to the stock base used to prepare the savoury broth.
A light touch is needed to handle this dish as the tofu is rather soft even after the excess moisture in it has been strained away. Another important tip is also not to over-fry the tofu because sitting too long in hot oil can cause the fragile tofu squares to break. For this reason, Japanese sweet potato starch has been used to coat the squares as it crisps up faster.
Lastly, do make sure that the broth is piping hot when you ladle it around the tofu. It will ensure that superb contrasting texture of a crunchy batter on the top half of the tofu, as well as the wonderfully creamy and gelatinous bottom half which absorbs up the flavourful broth.
Agedashi Tofu (serves 3): 1 block soft tofu 300ml Primary Dashi (see recipe below) 2 tbsp saké 2 tbsp shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce) 1 tsp mirin Japanese sweet potato starch for coating tofu Vegetable oil for deep-frying
Thumb size daikon or young ginger, peeled and very finely grated spring onion, finely sliced bonito flakes
1) Wrap tofu with a clean kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels for 1 hour to absorb excess moisture at room temperature. Gently unwrap the tofu.
2) Combine the primary dashi, saké, shoyu and mirin in a pot. Bring it to the boil, then stir in a small handful of bonito flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Strain solids.
3) Cut tofu into 6 pieces, heat some oil for deep-frying in a heavy based pan or wok.
4) Coat the tofu generously with Japanese sweet potato starch.
5) Deep fry the tofu at the ideal oil temperature of 180C until a light golden brown.
6) Drain excess oil off, set tofu aside in a single layer and keep warm.
7) Bring the broth to the boil again, then divide broth equally amongst tofu and garnish with ginger or daikon, spring onions and more bonito flakes. Serve immediately.
Primary Dashi: 1 piece Kombu (dried kelp) 1 litre water 1 cup bonito flakes, loosely packed
1) Place kombu in the pot with water, bring to the boil. When water boils, remove the kombu.
2) Stir in bonito flakes and boil for 3 minutes.
3) Turn off the heat; let it infuse for 5 minutes.
4) Strain, discard solids and use as needed.