Japanese Cooking: Spicy Fried Tofu

A delicious and quite inexpensive solution to living alone in Tokyo. This post presents a recipe detailing all the ingredients and steps needed to create fried spicy tofu, a Japanese or some might say south-east Asian delicacy that can be a whole mean by itself.

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.

Ingredients

So what will we need? The ingredients are as follows:

  • A pack of fried toufu
    Fried Tofu
    The type of fried tofu to use
  • 1.5 cup of water
  • 1 bag of dashi
    Dashi
    A pack of dashi bags

    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
    A bottle 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
    Soy sauce
    A bottle of Japanese soy sauce
  • (optional)2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cooking sake
    Cooking Sake
    A cup of of Japanese 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 sauce
    A jar of toubanjan, hot bean sauce from a Japanese supermarket

    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.

Directions

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.

Putting the Dashi to boil
Putting the Dashi to boil

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.

Ingredients Mix
A mix of the ingredients

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.

Tofu blocks
Array the fried tofu in the cutting board for cutting

Then cut it carefully with a knife in thin slices right about the size that you can see below.

Tofu slices
Fried tofu cut in slices

Then you have to carefully take out (preferably with chopsticks) the dashi bag from the boiling water and add the mix of the ingredients.

Add the sauce to the pot
Adding the mix of ingredients to the pot

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.

Adding the tofu slices
Adding 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.

Spicy Tofu
Spicy tofu is almost ready

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.

Spicy tofu with rice
Spicy tofu with 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.

Everyday life, mobility and … trains!

A post expressing my impressions on daily life in Japan and how the inconceivable amount of trains and their amazing punctuality makes it so much easier to be mobile and even work on the road.

Well I have been quite busy for the past months with the summer semester starting and with the aftermath of the Touhoku earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear accident and hence the total absence of posts in here. So I am starting again with a mini-post. After the first two months of panic and doomsday talk things started to settle down and with double speed since this is Japan. Classes started, albeit a month later than planned and that’s the reason we are in for a very short summer (classes go in well until mid-August). The foreigners who fled to nearby Asian countries came back. Japanese are “supporting” Touhoku with Support the north advertising campaigns. Generally … life goes on normally.

But even in this normal everyday life there are quite many exciting challenges to be faced. This semester is the hardest for me transportation-wise. I have to be traveling between my dormitory and two different campuses of my university both of which are located in the total opposite side of Tokyo, a not so small a city. The distance is about 50km from my dormitory to the campus. Japan is known for its amazing and fast transportation but still this is time and money lost. Or is it?

Japanese trains are amazing. All transportation here is done effectively by trains, going both under and above ground. They are fast, efficient, punctual but also extremely crowded in the rush hours. Here is a photo of a train on the Odakyuu line, one which I take everyday.
Odakyu_4051_Tama_Line_20070721

In my case I have to change 3 different lines. Odakyu, Chiyoda (subway) and Tsukuba express, the last of which is the most expensive and covers the biggest distance. I spend around 4 hours per day in the trains (in the worst case) and early on I decided that I had to do something to make good use of it.

The answer came when I saw a typical Japanese salary man pull out his small notebook on his way to work and coding something for a full 20 minutes. I had to try it myself too. So the very next day I took my notebook (an 11″ Macbook Air depicted below) and attempted to make good use of my time while commuting to the university.

My notebook

The results were amazing. From that day on, if I am in a good state of mind I can work and maybe even “get into the zone” for a good 50 minutes while commuting to and another 50 while commuting back from the university. I can not stress enough how much this has actually increased my productivity. Everyday a lot less time is going to waste.

What’s my point with this post? Well I am simply stating that with proper planning and thinking one can fine-tune his life’s daily schedule so that he/she becomes a lot more productive in his/her work. Why don’t you try apply this way of thinking into your day?