I am making chicken teriyaki, fresh tofu, and pickles for Sunday night. To make the fresh tofu look pretty I had trimmed the slumping sides off. This left me with five thin slabs of tofu. I decided that I wanted to make a Shiitake mushroom dish with them.
Fresh tofu is very watery, so to fry it well you need to press it to dry it out. If you do not do this it will only steam in its own liquid and you will never get it to brown. If you do not have fresh tofu, you can use an extra firm block of tofu and cut it into half inch slabs.
Note: Fresh tofu is tofu that has been made today—preferably this hour—and has a very distinct taste and texture from tofu that has been sitting in a plastic box in the store for days. I get mine from San Jose Tofu.
If I simply stir-fried the tofu and mushrooms together it would be a very Chinese dish. The rest of my meal is Japanese. My question was: How do I make a fried tofu and mushroom dish with a Japanese aesthetic?
In Japan, food is to feed the soul, as well as the body. Even in everyday cooking, the meal should be artistically arranged so that it is pleasing to the eye. My solution was to layer the ingredients: A bed of fried and shredded tofu; an abundance of slightly sweet soy sauced mushrooms—so the sauce would drip down onto the tofu; and finally, a garnish of green onions.
Karl’s Fried Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms
5-6 half inch slabs of tofu
2 Tbs. oil (soybean or peanut)
10 shiitake mushrooms
3 green onions
1. Four hours before cooking, place the tofu labs on a large plate and place a second plate over the tofu. Put a heavy weight on top of the plates.
Tip: Every half hour pick the plates up together and drain expressed liquid. This can be saved for adding to the sauce instead of water.
2. Wipe and stem the mushrooms.
Tip: You may leave the caps whole, cut them in half or cut them into half inch slices.
3. Keep the white parts separate and slice them thickly on a long diagonal. Sliced the green parts of the onions thinly on a long diagonal and put them in a bowl of ice water.
Tip: The ice water will cause the onions to curl attractively.
Note: I only thought about this after I thought that it would have looked better than what I did.
4. Put the soy sauce and Mirin in a small bowl and heat it slightly. Remove it from the heat and add the Hon Dashi. Stir until the Hon Dashi is completely dissolved.
5. Slice the tofu into thin strips and arrange then in a shallow serving dish.
6. Put one tablespoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Fry the tofu until golden brown on both sides. Set the tofu aside to cool.
Tip: To improve the browning, rub a pinch of sugar over the tofu.
7. Put the remaining oil in the pan and sauté the mushrooms for two minutes.
8. Add the white parts of the onion and stir fry for one more minute.
9. Add the sauce from the bowl and cook one minute more.
Tip: If the sauce dries out to much you may add some water or the tofu liquid. You want a very wet sauce.
10. Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the tofu.
11. (Optional) The tofu strips are good cold, but if you prefer you may microwave the dish for one minute to reheat the tofu.
12. Arrange the green onions curls over the dish and serve.