According to Tastefully Done, age means deep fried and dashi, of course, is the stock made from bonito flakes and kelp. Hence, agedashi tofu. For me, it’s the queen of tofu dishes. Squares of fried delicate soft tofu served with a light salty-sweet sauce.
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.
The obvious question is whether the crisp coating won’t turn soggy if allowed to sit in the sauce. Two things. You have to press out the excess liquid from the tofu. And — this is really important — use starch rather than flour. Tapioca starch, if you can find it, or cornstarch as a substitute. Don’t use flour because a flour coating turns soggy within a few minutes even before the tofu touches the sauce.
Is agedashi tofu an easy recipe or is it for seasoned cooks only? Let’s just say that it doesn’t take a miracle to successfully fry soft tofu. The key is in finding the right kind of tofu and learning how to handle it. For me, the ideal tofu for this dish is kinugoshi or “cotton” tofu which is firmer than silken tofu but softer than firm tofu. I buy mine from Shopwise.
- 2 cups dashi or 2 cups of water and 1 packet of powdered dashi
- 2 to 3 tablespoons light soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
- 2 tablespoons mirin or sake (or other rice wine — but not rice wine vinegar)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 cake kinugoshi or “cotton” tofu about 300 grams
- 3/4 cup tapioca starch or corn starch
- 2 to 4 cups cooking oil for frying
- sliced scallions to garnish
- Make the sauce. Heat the dashi (or the water and dashi powder) just until it comes to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the light soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and ginger. Set aside.
- Press out the excess water from the tofu.
- To do this, place the tofu between two stacks of kitchen paper and press lightly. Invert, press lightly again. Change the kitchen paper two more times, repeating the process.
- Cut the tofu into two-inch squares (or cubes).
- Place the starch in a shallow bowl. Add the tofu and gently roll each to completely coat the outside. Depending on how wet the tofu still is at this point, you may have to do the rolling part two to three times more.
- Heat the oil until wisps of smoke start to appear.
- Fry the tofu, in batches of five or six, just until the coating turns crisp, about two minutes per batch. Drain on a stack of kitchen paper.
- Transfer the cooked tofu cubes on a shallow bowl. Spoon the dashi around them (you can keep in the excess in the fridge). Sprinkle the agedashi tofu with sliced scallions and serve at once.