Living in Tokyo can be quite expensive. Transportation, food and rent all accumulate into a cost of living that well surpasses what we used to have back in our home countries. But it’s not all so bad. One of the best ways to save some money is to actually cook some Japanese recipes with local ingredients that don’t cost much. I know that we all miss our country’s food but buying imported ingredients or generally food that is considered western here in Japan tends to be expensive and should be avoided.
In this post I will show how to make one of my favorite foods, Spicy fried tofu. It’s pretty easy and it can be made by anyone regardless of whether he/she is located in Japan or not since its ingredients can be found in most markets that are selling Asian food products.
So what will we need? The ingredients are as follows:
- A pack of fried toufu
- 1.5 cup of water
- 1 bag of dashi
Dashi is the base of japanese cooking. It’s a type of soup and cooking stock that is made from drying various types of fish.
3 table spoons of mirin
Mirin is a type of rice wine use in Japanese cooking. For our recipe you only require 3 tablespoons. It does not matter what type of mirin is used. In the picture we see “True” Mirin which also contains alcohol.
3 table spoons of soy sauce
- (optional)2 tablespoons of sugar
- 3 tablespoons of cooking sake
Cooking sake is available everywhere in Japan and from what I know in stores that specialize on Asian products worldwide.
3 tablespoons of Tobanjan
Tobanjan is a Chinese spicy sauce made of fermented beans and rice. It is what gives the spice to our recipe. And be careful it’s really spicy. Since I like spicy food I put more. Adjust the amount according to how spicy you would want the end result to be.
Cooking this recipe is pretty simple. You have to do two things at the same time. First of all put the 1.5 cup of water to boil inside a pot and add the dashi bag so that we create the base for our sauce. This should boil in low fire and for about 2 mins.
While the water is boiling with the dashi let’s create the rest of the sauce. In a small bowl mix the mirin, soy sauce, sake, (optional)sugar and the tobanjan.
Mix them well and make sure that the tobanjan has spead evenly. The picture above is right after adding the tobanjan and before mixing the whole thing.
Also open the package of fried tofu and array it in a cutting board like below.
Then cut it carefully with a knife in thin slices right about the size that you can see below.
Then you have to carefully take out (preferably with chopsticks) the dashi bag from the boiling water and add the mix of the ingredients.
Be careful while you are doing it. You may notice I spilled a bit on the pot itself. Taking pictures with the other hand did not help I suppose. Make sure that the whole sauce has mixed well together with the dashi water and then finally add all the slices of tofu.
Now all you have left to do is to boil this in medium fire for about 20 mins or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Be careful! Do not let all of the liquid to evaporate because then there will be no sauce left and the tofu will be dry.
Finally when it’s ready you have lots of options to choose from when it comes to serving it. You can serve it along with some meat, with vegetables or as a side dish to literally anything. The most simple way to serve and typically my favorite is with plain Japanese rice. It is the best way to appreciate its flavor and as an added bonus the sauce really enriches the taste of the rice.
It may not look pretty but it tastes really damn good. Especially if you are a spicy food lover like myself.
Well that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed the post and if any of you tried to make it don’t hesitate to leave comments and/or feedback using the form below. I would be particularly interested in suggestions for improving the recipe and making it taste even better.