By Hitoshi Ono / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterHandmade aburaage with grated yam
Chefs and cooking experts take turns in this column sharing recipes that are easy to prepare at home.
According to Kakuho Aoe, a chef and chief priest of Ryokusenji temple in Tokyo’s Nishi-Asakusa area, thin aburaage deep-fried tofu is often used in shojin ryori, vegetarian cuisine based on Buddhist teachings, as a way to obtain dietary fat without using meat.
Aoe introduced a recipe of homemade aburaage dressed with tororo, or grated yam. The combination of freshly fried rich tofu with sticky yam is flavorful and nutritious. Aoe says the dish is easy on your stomach even when you’re fatigued at the turn of the seasons.
The monk chef said that although ready-made aburaage sold at stores is good, it’s better to cook tofu from scratch because freshly prepared tofu is “rich and appetizing.” Homemade aburaage also creates the feel of a “feast,” Aoe said.
At home, Aoe often simmers aburaage with soy sauce and sugar and keeps it as stock. He puts aburaage on top of udon and soba noodles or chops it into pieces to add to fried rice.
When making aburaage, it’s important to thoroughly remove the liquid in tofu, Aoe says. It’s better, he says, to use the firm momen (literally “cotton”) type of tofu. He recommends wrapping each slice of tofu in a paper towel and putting a weight on the pieces for about half a day. You should spend a good amount of time and effort to deep-fry the tofu, Aoe says.
Put tofu in low-temperature oil for about five to six minutes to first thoroughly heat the tofu, and then raise the temperature to fry for another four to five minutes until the tofu’s surface becomes crispy.
Aoe chose nutritious nagaimo yam for tororo and grated it to pour over the fried tofu. Some dishes using grated yams have “yoro” in their name, a word that combines the characters for “nurture” and “old age,” because they’re said to help elderly people stay healthy.
Roughly grated daikon is mixed into grated yam to add juicy crunchiness to tororo’s smooth texture. The daikon also helps the digestion of deep-fried food. Aoe put okra, which he said is also good for fatigue caused by summer heat, next to the dish.
A savory aroma filled the kitchen as pieces of tofu were deep-fried. The yam’s stickiness unexpectedly went great with the richness of freshly deep-fried tofu. Ponzu sauce was used to add a refreshing touch.
Nagaimo glides down
Nagaimo can be shredded to be eaten like cold noodles, Aoe said.
Julienne 100 grams of nagaimo and leave the pieces in vinegared water for about 10 minutes. Cut ¼ cucumber and a 30-gram carrot into strips, sprinkle potato starch over the vegetables and immerse them in boiling water.
For the dressing, mix 1½ tablespoons of mirin, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, ½ cup of dashi made from konbu and ½ cup of soy milk.
Recipe for handmade aburaage with grated yam
Ingredients (serves 2):
½ pack or 90 grams of tofu (firm momen type)
30 grams of nagaimo yam
20 grams of daikon
2 pieces of okra
1 tbsp green yuzu citrus juice
1. Cut tofu into 5 mm-thick pieces. Wrap each piece in paper towel and place plate or other weight on wrapped tofu. Leave for half day to eliminate liquid from tofu.
2. Deep-fry tofu in 130 C oil for 5 to 6 minutes. Raise temperature of oil to between 150 C and 160 C to cook for another 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Peel nagaimo yam and grate. Roughly grate daikon using type of grater called onioroshi. Mix to make sticky tororo.
4. Sprinkle pinch of salt over okra and rub to remove fuzz. Immerse okra in boiling water for about 10 seconds. Remove from water and chill in running water. Cut lengthwise into halves.
5. Mix 1 tbsp soy sauce and green yuzu juice to make ponzu sauce.
6. Place deep-fried tofu on plate, pour tororo over it and drizzle ponzu. Place okra next to tofu. Garnish with slices of yuzu as desired.
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