“Atsu-age” 厚揚げ or “Nama-age” 生揚げ is deep fried thick (“atsu” 厚 means “thick”) tofu. But this is not like “Abura-age” 油揚げ in which only the surface is fried, because the center portion of this tofu retains the look and texture of the original “raw” tofu or “nama” 生. In the case of ”abra-age”, thin slices of tofu are deep fried until completely cooked. Although frozen abra-age was readily available at the Japanese grocery store in our neighborhood, atsu-age is more difficult to come by since it cannot be frozen. (When frozen, the raw tofu portion totally changes its consistency). I have not seen atsu-age in our grocery store before. We used to have grilled atsu-age occasionally at Tako Grill. Recently I saw a package (from Japan) in the refrigerator case and bought it.
The way I served it is in the classic Izakaya-style. Since we had sashimi items including “Ootoro” from “Fish-for -Sushi” we splurged and opened the last bottle of “14th generation sake” (十四代）which we have had in our refrigerator for more than 3 years.
Atsu-age could be a part of “nimono” 煮物 or simmered dish, or served grilled or heated up in a frying pan. At Izakaya, it is usually simply grilled. I just heated it up in a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until the skin got crispy and the center was warm. I cut it into 2 blocks and topped it with graded daikon and thinly sliced scallion (below).
In this angle, you can see that the center is “raw” tofu.
Add just a little bit of soy sauce and we are ready.
As you can easily imagine, the quality of atsu-age really determines how good this dish is. This was fresh and very good. If this is not fresh, the only way you could possibly choke it down is simmered in broth with other items. I am glad I chose this simple way of serving. “Juyondai” sake was as good as when I first tasted it even after 3 years probably because it was kept under refrigeration all that time.