Sunday, February 21, 2021

Agedashi Tofu


I’ve always loved Tofu, which I am quite sure is because of my Chinese heritage, along with having lived in Japan as a child. I don’t really understand the complaint that Tofu has no flavor, as I personally find fresh Tofu to be delicious. And, it acts a sponge for so many flavors, which makes it a culinary chameleon. My son Stephen shares my love of Tofu and the other day, he made Agedashi Tofu and I promptly made it at my house too since I always have Tofu in my refrigerator  Agedashi Tofu consists of lightly pan fried Tofu squares (coated in either Cornstarch or Potato Starch) that are then bathed in a Agedashi Broth, which is a combination  Dashi stock (made from Kombu and Bonito Flakes) and seasoned with Tamari, Mirin, a hint of Sugar and Stephen's special touch: some grated Ginger. You can use instant Dashi Broth if you like too. There is so much umami flavor in this dish and it has the wonderful contrasting textures of the crispy coating and the soft and creamy center bathed in a delicious broth. Sprinkled with very thinly sliced Green Onions and Bonito Flakes and other toppings of your choice, it is also a beautiful dish. Agedashi Tofu is so good that I had to share the recipe with you!


Agedashi Tofu


Dashi Stock (make ahead)


2 cups Water

1 3 – 4 inch square of Kombu

1/2 cup Bonito flakes


Place the Water and Kombu in a small pot. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then remove the Kombu Piece. Add the Bonito Flakes and bring back to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a fine metal sieve before using. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  Or make 2 cups of instant Dashi Broth. 


Agedahi Broth:

1 cup Dashi Stock (recipe above) 

2 Tablespoons Tamari

2 Tablespoons Mirin

1/2 teaspoon Sugar

A pinch of grated Ginger

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat.


For the Tofu:


1 carton of Soft Tofu, drained, cut in half lengthwise and then into quarters to make 8 squares

1 teaspoon Salt 

¼ teaspoon White Pepper

½ cup Cornstarch or Potato Starch

½ cup of Vegetable Oil (I used High Heat Safflower)


Place the Tofu on a paper towel covered plate and top with additional paper towels. Pat lighty to dry and remove the paper towels. Then sprinkle the Tofu pieces lightly with Salt and Pepper on each side. 

Put the Cornstarch or Potato Starch in a shallow bowl and coat each Tofu piece.


Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the Tofu when the oil shimmers.  Cook the Tofu until it is browned and then turn over very carefully. Fry that side until golden brown.


Heat the Agedashi Broth and pour into 4 small bowls. Add 2 pieces of fried Tofu and top with Green Onion slices and Bonito Flakes and any other topping of your choice. Serve immediately.



Finely sliced Green Onion tops

Bonito flakes

Optional: Nori flakes, more grated Ginger, grated Daikon, a sprinkle of Shichimi Togarashi

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element because of its white color, but because it is made with Soybeans, it also involves the Water Element. There are plenty of other Water foods in this dish too, starting with the Bonito Flakes and Kombu Seaweed along with the Tamari. More Metal foods can be found in the Green Onions (which also has some Wood) and the Daikon if you add it. The Earth Element is found in the Cornstarch or Potato Starch and the Ginger contributes even more. The Fire Element is found in the Mirin and the Shichimi Togarashi (if using). So only the Wood Element needs support, so be sure to serve some green vegetables as part of the meal. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry


5 Element Food is 11 years old today!  I started this food blog back in the Year of the Tiger on Chinese New Year's Day and today is Chinese New Year's Day in the Year of the Metal Ox. So, Happy New Year!  If you'd like to read this year's forecast, please go to my website - Lotus Institute

And as always for Chinese New Year, it is very important to make Lucky Foods to eat. The good news is that you actually have two weeks to eat a lot of lucky foods (see the Chinese Lucky Foods page on the upper right hand corner of this blog). Today, I made a Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry because it incorporates eight lucky foods and it's delicious too!

Although some of the ingredients in this dish may seem very exotic, they are actually quite easy to find in Asian markets and some of the ingredients are even easy to find in your local supermarket. If you don't have any of the ingredients, improvise as there are so many lucky foods to choose from! Of course, you can add more than eight ingredients too just as long as you have at least eight lucky ones. If you add more, you will probably need more of the Seasoning Sauce. Both Mushrooms and Tofu soak up the flavors so check before adding any additional Tamari as you don't want this dish to be too salty. If you want the sauce to cling to the ingredients, be sure to add the Cornstarch at the end of the cooking time.

This is a classic stir fry with several of the ingredients needing to be rehydrated ahead of time. Just pour boiling water over the dried ingredients and let them soak for at least 30 minutes. Once everything is sliced up, it only takes a few minutes to cook them all in a wok with a little oil with the addition of a little vegetable broth to soften the vegetables up and then you season it all lightly with Tamari and and a drizzle of Sesame Oil. Served with rice, it's a perfect way to celebrate Chinese New Year. And, Happy New Year to you all!

Vegetarian Eight Treasures Stir Fry

1 cup of thinly sliced Pressed Tofu

1 cup of sliced Shitake Mushrooms, rehydrated

1/2 cup of Wood Ear Fungus (Mu'er or Black Fungus) rehydrated - about 1/4 cup dried

1/2 cup of rehydrated Day Lily Flowers (about 1/4 cup dried)

2 Celery Stalks, trimmed, cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths, then sliced into thin shreds

2 small Carrots, trimmed and peeled, cut into 1-1/2 inch lengths, then sliced into thin shreds

1 cup of Bamboo Shoots (canned or fresh) cut into thin shreds

1 cup of Green Onions, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths and thin sliced into thin shreds

3 Tablespoons neutral tasting Vegetable Oil (I use Safflower)

Optional Vegetable Ingredients, which are also lucky: Shredded Napa Cabbage, Bean Sprouts, sliced Red Pepper, Noodles, thinly sliced Leeks and/or Garlic Chives.

Seasoning Sauce:

1/2 cup Vegetable Broth

3 - 4 Tablespoons Tamari (taste the dish before adding the last Tablespoon of Tamari)

1 teaspoon Sesame Oil

1/2 teaspoon Sugar

pinch of White Pepper

Optional Sauce Ingredient:  1 teaspoon up to 1 Tablespoon Chili Garlic Sauce

Optional:  1 teaspoon Cornstarch combined with 1 Tablespoon of Water

In the liquid measuring cup, combine the Vegetable Broth, Tamari, Sesame Oil, Sugar and White Pepper along with the Chili Garlic Sauce (if using)

Heat a wok or large frying pan. Add the Oil and then add in the pressed Tofu slices. Cook, stirring and tossing for a few minutes and then add in the Carrots, Mushrooms and Celery (and any other vegetables you want). Cook until they start to get a little soft. Then add in the Bamboo Shoots, Green Onions, Wood Ear and Day Lily pieces. Continue to toss until all the ingredients get hot. The add in the Sauce mixture and Cornstarch (if using)and continue to toss until the Sauce is mostly absorbed or thickened. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Five Element Analysis

Tofu belongs to the Metal Element although it is made with Soybeans so it is part of the Water Element too. The Shitake Mushrooms along with the dried Black Fungus, Tamari and Sesame Oil all add more of the Water Element. More Metal comes from the Green Onions, which also has some Wood in it. The Wood Element is also represented by the Celery. The Earth Element is found in the Carrots. Only the Fire Element is deficient, represented by White Pepper. This can be fixed by using some Chili Garlic Sauce or adding some Red Pepper slices. With so many ingredients, it was likely to be a pretty balanced dish and it is!