Agedashi dofu, or agedashi tofu, is a traditional Japanese tofu dish that is a popular appetizer you will find in izakayas and restaurants. It is deep fried tofu with a crispy crust formed by a potato starch coating. It is typically served with toppings such as grated daikon, katsuobushi (bonito flakes), scallion, nori, or grated ginger and a sauce that soaks into the tofu. You can make it a little spicier by adding shichimi togarashi.
A great agedashi tofu is like warm custard. It melts on your tongue into a creamy pool of savory dashi, lightly accented by the garnishes. The magic is in the way the coating absorbs the flavorful dashi, seasoning the tofu, while also releasing some residual oil into the broth, imparting a hint of richness without being greasy.
- Wrap the tofu with paper towels and place it on a flat tray. Optionally, salt the tofu. Put a cutting board or a flat plate on top the tofu and let sit for about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, put dashi, soy sauce, and mirin in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Mix 1 tablespoon katakuriko potato starch with 1 tablespoon water.
- Add the katakuriko mixture to the sauce and stir quickly. Stop the heat.
- Dry the tofu with paper towels and cut each tofu piece in half.
- Dust the tofu with 4 tablespoons of katakuriko to coat the pieces completely.
- Heat oil to 350 F in a deep pot.
- Deep-fry the tofu pieces until they turn light brown. Drain on paper towels.
- Place each fried tofu in a small dish and pour the sauce over it.
- Garnish with grated ginger.
Agedashi dofu is pretty easy to get wrong. At its worst, it comes out soggy and greasy, smothered in a cloyingly sweet teriyaki sauce. Here are some cooking tips to get it right:
- It is essential to use fresh oil. Agedashi tofu has a very delicate flavor profile and if you use old oil, it will end up greasy, tasting like all the things that have been fried in the oil before.
- The temperature of the oil should also be relatively high. This ensures that the coating fries up crisp without frying the tofu itself.
- The coating needs to be potato starch—cornstarch just isn't the same. After soaking in the dashi, the potato starch will lose its crispness, but it absorbs the dashi in the process, creating a flavorful, nearly transparent skin.
- Use soft tofu. Firm tofu just doesn't have the same satiny texture of soft tofu and will leave you chewing a dish that should melt away in your mouth.
- Instead of just draining and drying the surface of the tofu before frying, salt the tofu as well. This does two things. The first is that it helps rid the tofu of extra water better than just draining it. The second is that it lightly seasons the tofu. This allows you to make the dashi less salty so you can enjoy it as a soup along with the tofu.