Monday, March 29, 2010

Tofu with Vegetable Ankake

Many people have told me they don't like tofu because it's tasteless.  Well, I don't blame them.  Good tofu is actually flavorful, packed with the sweetness of soy beans, and hard to find in the U.S.  The packed tofu sold at regular grocery stores is bland.  But this is not always a bad thing.  Soft flavored ingredients can be easily paired with all kinds of foods.  Having said that, some flavors are particularly suited for tofu dishes, and soy sauce flavor is one of them.  Soy sauce is also made of soy beans, so they are related.  No wonder they go well together.

Ankake is a traditional Japanese sauce thickened with potato starch, and soy sauce is often one of the ingredients.  The sauce can be salty, sweet, and/or sour.  It can be plain or it can be prepared with meat, seafood, and/ or vegetables.  This sauce is very versatile.  My vegetable ankake is slightly sweet and made with lots of vegetables, and the potato starch is substituted with corn starch.  Serve as an appetizer or as a light entree.

Tofu with Vegetable Ankake Print Recipe

3~4dried shiitake mushrooms
1 packfirm or extra firm tofu

regular oil
1/2onion, thinly sliced
15snap peas, cut into thin strips (cut diagonally)
1/2carrot, cut into thin strips

2 Tbspsake
300 ccwater
1 Tbspsoy sauce
1 tsphon-dashi*(omit if you are vegan)
1 tspsalt
1 Tbspcorn starch (for slurry)
2 Tbspwater (for slurry)

1/4 cupcorn starch


  1. Preparation: Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for about 20 minutes.  Drain and squeeze the mushrooms, cut off the stems and slice into shin strips.  Squeeze the tofu gently over the sink and remove excess water and cut into six slices.  Place the paper towels over a plate, put the tofu slices on top.  Cover with paper towels, place another plate on top.  Place heavy objects on the top plate.  Allow tofu to press for about 30 minutes to 1 hour. Or, after cutting tofu, pat dry very very well. 
  2. Make ankake: In a medium sized pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for about 3 minutes until slightly translucent. Add the carrots and cook until tender. Add the dried shiitake mushrooms and the snap peas. Add sake and cook for one minute.  Add water, soy sauce, hon-dashi and bring to a simmer.  Add sugar and season with salt.  Make slurry by combining one tablespoon of corn starch and two tablespoons of water.  Pure in the corn starch mixture while stirring, and cook until thickened.  Turn off the heat.  Cover the pot to keep it warm.  
  3. Cook the tofu and finish: In a frying pan, heat up a good amount of oil, about 1/4 inch deep.  Dredge the tofu with corn starch and add to the pan.  Cook the tofu until slightly brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Place the tofu on a plate and pour the ankake over it.

  Serves 2 as a main dish, 4~6 as an appetizer

*Japanese style fish soup stock. Available at Asian grocery stores.