Yeah, tofu can be really bland, but the Japanese use deep-fried tofu as an appetizer, especially in bars (izakaya). It’s popular and really good. It’s popularity is on the par with Japanese deep-fried chicken.
Here’s the thing: this is so easy to make, and takes so few ingredients that it’s surprising that more non-Japanese restaurants don’t serve it.
It goes really well as an appetizer for many types of Asian foods.
Here’s all you need for the tofu:
- 1 brick of tofu (use the firm version, because it’s more robust)
- Potato or corn starch
- Vegetable oil for either deep frying or pan frying
Here’s what you need for the broth/dip:
- 2T soy sauce
- 2 T sake (optional)
- 2T mirin
- 1 cup water, so it’s not so strong. If you have dashi (fish soup stock) at home, use a cup of that.
- Pinch of sugar
Here are some toppings you can use:
- Sliced scallions
- Bonito (fish) flakes, if you have them
- Grated ginger
What to do:
- Drain the tofu by putting paper towels above and below it, and put a heavy pan on it for 15 minutes to 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, you can make your broth/dip by mixing and boiling the liquids and adding in the pinch of sugar. Just let it sit off the heat, when done.
- Dry the tofu and cut into 8 equal-sized pieces.
- Put the starch in a deep plate and roll/coat each tofu piece on all sides.
- Deep or pan-fry the tofu in two batches, until it turns a golden color.
- Drain on paper towel.
- Put two or three pieces in a shallow bowl (for individual servings). Add broth/dip to the bowl and top with any/all of the toppings listed above. Try to do all this when the tofu is really hot.