Whenever I dine at a Japanese restaurant, exploring the appetizers is one of my favorite parts. It’s impossible to pass up on Japanese-style gyoza and lightly salted edamame. Of course, every once in a while, we order something we’ve never had before and are completely blown away — like agedashi tofu.
If you dig tofu and you frequent Japanese restaurants, you’ve probably had your fill of this crispy and pillowy goodness. If not, your proverbial socks are about to be blown off.
Agedashi tofu consists of lightly deep-fried cubes of tofu served in a heated tsuyu broth — a simple sauce made up of dashi, Japanese soy sauce, and mirin. The dish is typically topped off with sliced scallions, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), and grated daikon. You can easily make this dish vegetarian by using a kombu dashi and omitting the katsuobushi.
This delicate treat is a notable dish in Japan, and it certainly isn’t new. Put it this way — it was included in a book called Tofu Hyakuchin (which translates to “one hundred tofu”), a tofu-centric cookbook that dates back to 1782. Fun fact: Benjamin Franklin was the first American to mention tofu, and it was in a letter to John Bartram in 1770. Franklin became acquainted with it during a trip to London. When he wrote the letter to Bartram, he included a few soybeans and referred to tofu as “cheese from China”. (Hilarious.) Of course, it wasn’t until the mid-20th century before the majority of Westerners became familiar with this good stuff.
Agedashi tofu is easy to achieve in the comfort of your own kitchen, as long as you’re okay with deep-frying at home. You could also use an air fryer like an Actifry — just be sure to remove the paddle arm, or it will break the silken tofu apart and smear it all over the interior of the contraption leaving you with one heck of a mess. (Take it from me!)
Some important prep notes:
If you’re wondering if silken tofu is necessary, the answer is a simple yes. This dish is celebrated for its contrasting textures from the crisp exterior to the melt-in-your-mouth interior. You could “technically” use a firm tofu, but you wouldn’t get the true essence of the dish and, quite frankly, it wouldn’t be as enjoyable.
When it comes to prep, it’s imperative that you handle the tofu with care; it’s incredibly delicate and can fall apart in your hands. The first time I attempted this dish, I lost 1/4 of my tofu while draining the package over the sink. (The things from behind the scenes you don’t see…)
THIS RECIPE IS PART OF MY EAST SERIES.
In this series, I’ll be covering dishes from Japan, China and Korea to cover East Asia, followed by dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia to cover Southeast Asia.
Making this recipe? Snap a pic and tag me on Instagram: @Killing__Thyme /#killingthyme. For more delish eats, follow me on INSTAGRAM + PINTEREST.
- 14 oz silken tofu
- 4 TBSP potato starch or corn starch
- Vegetable oil for deep frying or for use in Actifry
- 1 cup dashi regular dashi is fine for pescetarians; for vegetarians, use kombu dashi
- 2 TBSP Kikkoman soy sauce
- 2 TBSP mirin
- Scallion thinly sliced
- Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) okay for pescetarians; skip if vegetarian
- Daikon radish grated
- *See notes for Actifry instructions at bottom.
- Unpack the tofu carefully; make a small slit in the top plastic cover of the packaging and carefully drain over sink; don't shake. Remove plastic cover, place a paper towel over the tofu and carefully flip onto a flat surface, like a cutting board or dinner plate. Gently jiggle the packaging to release the tofu. (Prior to flipping it over, you may need to slide a sharp knife along between the tofu and the plastic wall to help it release.) Once the tofu has been released, place a few layers of paper towels around it for absorption and let it sit for 15 minutes.
While the tofu sits, prep your garnishes; slice onions, grate daikon, etc.
- Now, create the tsuyu. In a small saucepan, bring dashi, soy sauce, and mirin to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat, cover, and set aside.
- Unwrap the tofu from the paper towels and cut into eight large cubes.
- In a deep fryer, heat 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to 350 degrees F.
- While that heats up, gently dust the tofu with potato starch. (I put my starch in a bowl and gently toss each individual cube in the starch until coated.)
- Carefully deep fry the cubes until light brown and crispy. Remove the tofu and place on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.
- Place 2-3 cubes in small serving bowls. Pour the sauce over the tofu and garnish with your preferred toppings.
* Frying in an Actifry (This step adds to cooking time)
- Remove the arm paddle from the center of the Actifry.
- Leaving off from Step 4 in the above directions, gently dust the tofu with potato starch. Once done, place them into the Actifry.
- Evenly drizzle approx. 1 TBSP of vegetable oil over the tofu.
- Close the Actifry and let it cook for approx. 20 minutes, checking on it periodically. Once the tofu has come to a light golden crisp, you can shut down the Actifry. There is no reason to flip the tofu while it cooks in the Actifry; every side should be equally crispy.
- Serve as per instructed in above directions.