An izakaya staple and to my mind one of the most elegant ways to serve beancurd, agedashi tofu is in essence a very simple recipe- smooth, delicate kinugoshi silken tofu is dusted in potato starch, deep fried and served in a bowl of seasoned dashi broth. A light, crisp shell gives way to a gently yielding, creamy, custard-like texture that melts in your mouth while the katakuriko gives the agedashi its distinctive soft, stretchy, jelly-like coating when immersed in the sweet, smoky soup. The two main elements of the dish are further enhanced by a selection of toppings- normally fresh spring onions, spicy daikon oroshi, savoury katsuobushi flakes and intensely powerful grated ginger- but you can also add chopped shiso leaves, shredded sheets of nori seaweed or a citrussy chilli kick from some shichimi togarashi.
Documented as early as the 1780s in Ka Hitsujun’s Tofu Hyakuchin- an immensely popular Edo period book on tofu- the clean, harmonious flavours and ease of preparation have helped keep this unassuming, humble looking dish a favourite across all of Japan, and one that we make a beeline for whenever we see it on a restaurant menu. The simplicity of the recipe allows each component to really shine and since they have nothing to hide behind you want to use the best quality ingredients you can find, make them all memorable and you’ll have a beautifully balanced bowl of food.
- 500g block kinugoshi (silken tofu)
- 5 x 10cm piece dried kombu
- large handful katsuobushi flakes
- 60ml soy sauce
- 60ml mirin
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 75g katakuriko potato starch
- 2 spring onions
- 10cm piece daikon radish
- thumb-sized piece ginger
- 1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
- vegetable oil for deep frying
- Start by pressing excess water from the kinugoshi; wrap the block of tofu in several paper towels, then place in a flat-bottomed dish and put a flat plate on top. Leave to press for at least thirty minutes but no more than an hour otherwise the tofu will get too firm and you’ll lose the soft creamy texture.
- Whilst your tofu is pressing, prepare the toppings for the agedashi. Peel the piece of daikon and grate it on an oroshigane or the rasped side of a box grater, then squeeze out and discard the excess liquid. Scrape the skin from the piece of ginger and finely grate it too, this time don’t discard any of its juices. Chop the spring onion into fine diagonal slices, then toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan until they are lightly golden (be careful doing this, the seeds can turn from fragrant and golden to bitter and blackened very quickly).
- Measure 500ml cold water into a medium saucepan, then add the piece of dried kombu and slowly start to bring the water to the boil over a medium heat. When the water is boiling, turn off the heat and remove the kombu, then add a large handful of katsuobushi flakes (reserving a pinch to use as a topping for the tofu). Leave the flakes to infuse for around two minutes, then strain the dashi broth through a sieve lined with muslin into a clean saucepan. Next, add the soy sauce and mirin to the broth and place the pan over a low heat, stir in the sugar and salt and allow them to dissolve while your stock comes to a simmer. Keep the broth warm until the tofu is ready to serve.
- Pour about seven or eight centimetres of vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan ready for deep frying and place it over a medium heat- you’ll have time to prepare your tofu whilst it heats up, but keep an eye on the temperature of the oil when you’re doing so. Drain any liquid off the pressed tofu, cut the block in half and then cut each half into quarters to give you eight pieces; blot the cut edges dry with more paper towels. Put the potato starch into a large dish, then coat the tofu well with the starch. When the oil has reached 180ºC, carefully add half of the tofu pieces and fry them until they are starting to lightly colour and appear crisp (this should take around three to four minutes). Drain the fried tofu on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil, then repeat the process for the rest of the tofu pieces.
- Divide the drained, fried tofu between four serving bowls then top each portion with a mound of daikon oroshi, a dab of grated ginger, chopped spring onions, reserved katsuobushi flakes and toasted sesame seeds. Finally, pour the hot dashi broth into the bowls and serve immediately.
Serves 4 people.