Deep-fried tofu in tempura sauce 揚げ出し豆腐 (Mark’s book p21)
This is a favorite Izakaya “teiban” 定番 or regular dish. It’s called “agedashi-dofu” 揚げ出し豆腐 (“a-ge” means “deep fried”, “dashi” means “broth”). Our good friends told us that they had this dish in a small Japanese restaurant located in a remote mountain town in the Western Canadian Rockies last summer (a very unexpected place to find good Japanese food). They liked it very much. So much so, they tried to make it at home. They said that the broth came out OK but the crunchy surface of the tofu was missing from their version. They said they coated the tofu with corn starch and pan fried it, instead of deep frying it. I have not made this dish for some time since we can have it at our Izakaya substitute in the U.S., “Tako Grill“, which we frequent. They make a very good agedashi-dofu.
There are many versions of the recipe for this dish but the most important factor for its success appears to be the quality of tofu followed by the kind of flour used to coat it. I have traditionally used “potato starch” 片栗粉. That is also used in the the recipe in Mark’s book. Potato starch is available in our Japanese grocery store. Other recipes suggest the use of regular AP (all purpose) flour or coating the tofu first with a beaten egg before dredging it in the flour. Most of the recipes call for deep frying the tofu but some home recipes suggest pan frying.
The corn starch is the second best. It does result in a darker color surface than does the potato starch but the crust in nicely crunchy. My wife also noticed that the corns starch imparts a subtle corn flavor to the tofu. The tofu coated in AP flour burned easily and did not form a good crust. So, my conclusion is that potato starch is the best and corn starch is OK but AP flour does not work. So for this dish 1) use potato starch but corn starch can also be used, 2) use either “deep” or “shallow” frying.
The broth is the usual mixture of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin but I took a short cut, and used a good quality bottled concentrated broth which I just diluted with hot water (to your desired taste). I added a small amount of soy sauce because it was a bit too sweet. For this dish, I make the broth stronger than I would if I were using the broth for a warm noodle dish. I just garnished it with grated ginger and chopped chives or scallions but you could also add any combination of julienned nori sheet, bonito flakes, graded daikon, prepared mushrooms, or even thicken the broth with potato starch (then, the dish is called “agedoufu no ankake” 揚げ豆腐の餡かけ, which is similar to “Deep-fried tofu with Mushroom sauce”, Mark’s book p120).