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. Potato starch (preferred by the Japanese), 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.
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.