This wonderful dish will convert even tofu-haters. It’s silky and subtle and incredibly delicious. If making your own vegetarian dashi, note you will need to start it the day before.
¼ cup cornflour or potato starch
¼ teaspoon sea salt
generous sprinkle white pepper
300-gram block silken tofu
ghee, coconut oil or peanut oil, for frying
2 cups dashi stock (see recipes below)
4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
2 pieces dried kombu
8 cups water
5 grams bonito flakes
2 pieces dried kombu
3 pieces dried shiitake mushrooms
8 cups cold water
thinly sliced spring onion, black and white sesame seeds, bonito flakes (omit if vegetarian)
Prepare a traditional or vegetarian dashi stock.
Traditional Dashi: Soak kombu for 30 minutes. Bring to a boil over a medium heat. Remove the kombu. Add the bonito flakes and allow to steep for 30 minutes. Drain through a fine sieve. Can be used immediately or stored for up to 5 days. Freezes well.
Vegetarian Dashi: Place the kombu, mushrooms and water into a large pot. Place in the fridge to steep for 8–12 hours. Place over a medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove the kombu. Simmer for 2 minutes before removing mushrooms. Can be used immediately or stored for up to 5 days. Freezes well.
Broth: Place the dashi stock into a small saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Remove from the heat. Add the tamari and mirin.
Combine the cornflour/potato starch in a bowl with the sea salt and white pepper. Stir well. Cut the tofu into 4cm cubes (more or less – it doesn’t need to be precise). Dust each cube in the flour mix thoroughly.
Heat 1cm of oil in a medium sauté pan. Fry for 3–4 minutes until crisp on all sides.
Serve immediately in small bowls topped with spring onion, sesame seeds and bonito flakes. Pour the broth around the sides to keep the tofu crisp. Serves 4 as an appetiser.
Cook's note: Dashi is a traditional Japanese stock that is the base of many dishes. It’s umami flavour is the secret ingredient to making delicious miso soups. Though traditionally made with bonito flakes, I’ve found a tasty vegetarian version can be made using dried shitake mushrooms.