Putting Tofu On TopOno, You Know
November 5, 2017
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: ANTHONY CONSILLIO
Many of us have grown up gulping down those tiny white cubes inside our miso soup, or devouring every last chunk found within a bowl of curry. Even so, while tofu is an integral part of Asian and Southeast Asian cooking, it rarely gets the attention it deserves in the culinary sphere.
Sure, if eaten alone, the large white blocks of soybean curd don’t have much flavor, but when they’re chopped up, sauteed, fried or what have you, they instantly become a powerful sponge for any flavor, making them critical to savory and sweet recipes alike.
Tofu also has expanded beyond the confines of its Asian roots to represent a staple of international vegetarian cuisine, and you can bet that when Thanksgiving rolls around in a few weeks, there will be numerous diners who will turn to Tofurky for their meat-free holiday feasts.
So in honor of this VIP (very important product) of the dining scene, let’s pay tribute to some old-school tofu creations cooked up in the beloved Japanese tradition.
THE TASTE OF TRADITION
Hands down, one of the most popular tofu dishes out there is Agedashi Tofu, featuring a lightly battered and deep-fried version of the soybean sensation served in a tempura-style tentsuyu sauce. One of the things that is most appealing about this classic appetizer, according to Teishoku Restaurant vice president Jason Zhang, is its contrasting textures.
“The tofu is very soft and juicy because it soaks up the sauce, but the outside is nice and crispy,” Zhang describes.
At Teishoku, he offers this pupu for $6.45. Four pieces of the soft yet crisp tofu are flavored not only with the shoyu-based tentsuyu broth, but also with delicious toppings: a sprinkling of bonito flakes, roasted nori, daikon and green onion.
You’ll want to dive in as soon as Agedashi Tofu hits the table, as the fried coating is best enjoyed hot and fresh from the kitchen. The dish is a great accompaniment to Teishoku’s menu of traditional Japanese cuisine offered at an affordable price point. Order it alongside one of its namesake teishoku sets, such as the Mochiko Chicken ($12.95) meal set presented with salad, small appetizers, rice (sushi, brown or white) and miso soup.
Speaking of the eatery’s mochiko chicken, the boneless and skinless thigh meat is marinated, battered and fried to order. In addition to being wonderfully tender, it’s crispy and emanates hints of garlic and shoyu goodness. Teishoku currently is offering a special for six complimentary pieces of mochiko chicken with orders of at least $10 (see coupon on page 17).
SOAKING UP SEKIYA’S
If you walk into the Kaimuki gem known as Sekiya’s Restaurant & Delicatessen, you’ll likely see many old-timers enjoying their traditional and local-style Japanese meals with a serving of tofu on the side. Just as regulars before them have done for eight decades, they’ll pour freshly grated ginger, katsuobushi (fish flakes) and green onions over Sekiya’s Hiyayakko (cold tofu), Yudofu (hot tofu) and Yakidofu (fried tofu), all with a nice dousing of shoyu on top.
General manager Faye Hara confirms that tofu remains a popular accoutrement at the eatery, seeing as it can also be added to any menu item for $1.50. In fact, so many customers were requesting to add tofu to the Nitsuke Butterfish,that Sekiya’s decided to make it a permanent fixture on the menu.
“Especially with dishes (like Nitsuke Butterfish) that have a lot of sauce, the tofu soaks up the sauce and that’s where the flavor comes in,” shares Hara.
As for the most popular tofu dish on the menu? That spot is reserved for Pork Tofu ($12.95). The top-seller is seasoned with a shoyu-sugar broth accented with round and green onions. And while the broth is light, it maintains its depth of flavor from house-made dashi — the same one used in the eatery’s iconic saimin soup base.
Customers may order the entree with chicken or beef instead — or, of course, they can opt for the meat-free version. “I have one customer who orders Chicken Tofu, minus the chicken, extra tofu,” Hara says with a laugh.
She also reminds diners to check out this month’s affordable Ribeye Special ($19.95), offering juicy steak dressed up with house-made barbecue sauce, rice, miso soup, tsukemono, a side salad and tea.