07 April 2011

Double Take: Almost Bourdain’s Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi tofu with fried basil leaves

Don’t let the T word scare you. I did until I was 16. Tofu never entered my house growing up, but once I tried it, I was hooked. And I blame this particular dish for hooking me. Agedashi is actually a very descriptive term: age means deep fried and dashi is a type of broth. So, agedashi tofu is deep fried tofu in dashi sauce. I typically order it as an appetizer in Japanese restaurants, but have had to go without since we moved to Germany.

I tried making it once before when we lived in the US, but it didn’t turn out quite right. The crust was off. And the crust tasted terrible. I wasn’t the master fryer then, and I suspect that my oil wasn’t quite hot enough. When I found a recipe that used a different coating (potato starch instead of corn starch), I decided it was time to try again. And I convinced (without much difficulty) Tabitha to try it, too.

Tabitha and I ended up taking very different approaches to the agedashi tofu, and we both loved our own versions, so I encourage you to check out hers as well. Go to her for an appetizer, and I’ll show you an entrée.

Make sure it is silken. Non-silken varieties are a bit spongy.

Agedashi Tofu
adapted from Almost Bourdain
Serves two as an entrée or four as an appetizer

1 block silken firm tofu (cut into 12 cubes)
Potato starch for coating (1/4-1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for deep-frying (if using a skillet, make sure you have enough oil for it to come at least halfway up the tofu)
12 basil leaves (or more if you like basil)
¼ teaspoon hot red chili flakes
2 inches long ginger, skinned and finely shredded
Dashi soup (recipe follows)


  1. Heat oil over medium high to high heat.
  2. Season potato starch with salt and pepper.
  3. Coat tofu in potato starch mixture. Wait for oil to come to temperature (375-400 °F)
  4. Just before adding the tofu to the pan, roll it in the potato starch mixture again. Deep-fry tofu in two batches until golden (about 5-7 minutes per side). Remove and drain on a wire rack.
  5. Deep fry ginger shreds until golden and crispy. Remove and drain.
  6. Deep fry basil leaves for 10-20 seconds. Remove and drain.
  7. Divide tofu into two bowls and top with basil leaves and ginger shreds. Divide dashi soup between the two bowls, sprinkle with hot pepper flakes, and serve immediately.

Potato starched tofu. For some reason this picture makes me think of homemade marshmallows. 
Dashi soup
inspired by the Traditional Dipping Sauce from the Daring Cook’s Cold Soba Noodles Challenge

2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups dashi stock (or two cups water and 1 package instant dashi boullion)
1 sheet toasted seaweed (the kind you get for sushi), sliced into bite sized pieces

Method: (start once the first batch of tofu is in the oil)
  1. Add mirin to a small sauce pan over medium low heat and heat to steaming. Add soy sauce and dashi, stirring to combine. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Add strips of seaweed and simmer until the tofu is ready. 

See those bubbles? That's the temperature you want!

The only time consuming part of this meal is heating the oil. And the reward is huge. I was happier with the agedashi tofu than I could have imagined. And fried basil and ginger? Oh yum! And, since it's Japanese, it has the amazing ability to be light, fresh, and clean on the palate even though it's deep fried. 

If you think you are going to make this frequently, it’s a great idea to invest in the potato starch or have a friend bring it to you from Germany as it’s $0.83/ pound here v. $6.00/ pound at Whole Foods. Or better yet, come visit me! Luckily, it’s perfectly legal to smuggle potato starch into the US since it contains no meat or meat byproducts. Just make sure it’s in the original packaging so customs doesn’t bring in the drug dogs to sniff the white powdery stuff in your bag.

I-made-agedashi-tofu-and-it-was-good: 1 vote!

Dinner anyone?
For Tabitha's take on Agedashi Tofu, complete with a different sauce, head on over to Double the Garlic!


  1. Oh my goodness. I LOVE this dish at a local Japanese restaurant! Who could have imagined a recipe would show up? I will make this.

  2. Yay for fried basil leaves and confidence with agedashi tofu! Did you prefer the tofu served with the broth and seaweed or plain with Ishi's dipping sauce?

  3. @ Michelle: I'm so glad you like it too! Let me know how it turns out.

    @ Tabitha: I'm definitely a dashi broth kinda girl when it comes to agedashi tofu, even over Ishi's dipping sauce. I think it's mainly b/c that's the way I had it first.


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