Here’s the first little something from the dusty 70s books: a firm izakaya favourite, agedashi tofu. ‘Izakayas’ are usually loosely translated to ‘taverns’ (presumably by Americans who don’t know what ‘pubs’ are), but since no-one’s seen a tavern since Dickens shuffled off this mortal coil, it’s not really the best equivalent, but there basically isn’t one.
Izakayas are where you often head with your workmates at the end of a long day for a few icy glasses of frothy beer, accompanied by plenty of small dishes and maybe a few plates of noodles – a kind of Japanese tapas bar. As someone who feels the impact of even one pint during a meal-less after-work drinking session, I’m very tempted to start my own in London.
So, amongst small plates such as yakitori and onigiri is agedashi tofu – lightly fried tofu bathed in a dashi-based sauce whilst still hot. It’s simple and delicious and makes a great part of most Japanese home cooking. For this one, it’s important to use rougher tofu as the porousness allows the tofu to soak up the flavour of the sauce. And it’s cheaper. Bonus.
500g firm tofu
Corn or tapioca starch
4 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp mirin
Handful dried bonito flakes (katsuobushi)
1 spring onion, finely chopped
Tsp grated ginger
Tbsp grated daikon
- First, make the sauce – add the dashi, soy sauce, mirin and sugar to pan and heat. Turn off as it comes to the boil and set aside.
- Cut the tofu into 2-inch square cubes
- Sandwich between kitchen paper on a plate, and stick another plate on top so that the moisture drains out – replace kitchen paper a couple of times over 20 minutes.
- Coat the cubes in the starch and season
- Heat vegetable oil in a wok and fry each cube until slightly golden; drain on kitchen paper
- While still hot, add a couple of pieces each to small dishes and pour the warm sauce over
- Top with the spring onion, ginger, daikon and katsuobushi – serve straight away