I do minimize the amount of tofu I consume, but this is one dish I really like at Japanese restaurants. Makes a great appetizer! It is sufficient for a light lunch, as well.
It comes with two parts – the dashi-based dipping sauce (some places will pour the sauce over the tofu, but I prefer it when they serve it on the side – keeps the tofu coating crispy until you are ready to eat the piece!) and the potato-flour/starch coated tofu. If you don’t eat nightshades, substitute the potato flour with arrowroot flour. While I nowadays need to minimize the amount of nightshades I consume, I figured, well, 1) the potato starch was pre-existing in the fridge, and 2) it’s really not that much. But if even this amount is too much for you, go for the arrowroot.
We are going to assume you’ve already made the dashi — check here for three dashi recipes to select from. Avoid the powdered stuff if at all possible. I have a shiitake / kombu dashi for the vegetarians/vegans among my readers.
Use firm tofu. Do not buy sprouted tofu for this. (Voice of regretful experience here. Neither the taste nor the texture will be right.) Tofu at least at my supermarket all appears to be gluten-free.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: Once boiling, 2 minutes
Rest Time: Rest on low heat until ready to serve.
Serves: 2 or 3.
Leftover friendly: Yes. You may want to freshen up the scallions for a second go.
Dashi-Based Dipping Sauce
- 1 cup Dashi
- 1 tablespoon Mirin
- 1 tablespoon Tamari (I prefer low sodium, gluten-free)
- 1 tablespoon regular sake (nothing fancy/pricey)
- finely chopped scallion pieces as garnish.
Mix everything together except the scallions in a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce heat after a minute or two, to just warm. Keep on the cooktop until ready to use. (Note: you can also reduce this to a simmer for a few minutes in case you need to evaporate every last bit of alcohol.)
After dispensing into personal dipping containers (when the tofu is ready), add scallions.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 5-8 minutes per batch
Rest Time: It’s pretty hot, I’d give it 3-4 minutes to cool down.
Leftover Friendly: Only if you like the coating soggy!!!
- half a pack of tofu per person. This will be written for two people (1 full 12 ounce pack), sliced and rinsed and drained.
- approximately 1/2 cup flour (potato or arrowroot)
- heat tolerant cooking oil (avocado, coconut, grapeseed, or if you have to use the less healthy, safflower or peanut)
- The above dashi-based dipping sauce, divided into two dipping containers.
- For garnish: more finely chopped scallion pieces (one scallion total), shiso or perilla leaves (same thing), and/or finely sliced nori (sold as dried sheets for making sushi rolls).
Layer a couple paper towels out, place down the tofu pieces so they don’t touch, layer another couple paper towels atop that, place something heavy (maybe a sturdy skillet with a cookbook on top of that) on top of the last layer of paper towels. Let rest for 20 minutes to squeeze out excess water.
Put the flour in a plate.
Get the oil up to temperature in a sauce pan or in a fryer – medium high, but everyone’s cook top is different. You want some good sizzling going on when you drop in water. And then just a little hotter…
Dip the tofu pieces in the flour (I dry them a little further when I do this), coating all sides. You can start heating up the dashi dipping sauce now.
Add the tofu to the hot oil, keeping pieces from touching. It helps to maneuver them with an Asian “spider” style ladle, although a fork can be useful, too. Fry in divided batches if you need to.
Cook 3-4 minutes per side, or until a little golden color starts to show up. Use the spider to remove the finished tofu, and drain on a paper towel (there should be little oil residue).
Arrange on the serving plates, with a small bowl for the dipping sauce. Add the garnish(es) to the tofu, and serve, allowing these extremely hot morsels to cool for a few minutes first.
You can certainly serve this as a meal in itself, or it can be a prelude to sushi, or whatever favorite Japanese dish you like. Or, serve seaweed salad as a side.