Course 5 - Agedashi tofu, katsuobushi, ikura

Now that the snacks and small bites are over, we're moving onto a a slightly richer course (although still in a small serving). Agedashi tofu is fried tofu blocks with a starch coating, traditionally served in a dashi/soy broth often topped with katsuobushi, grated daikon radish, and sliced green onions (and has appeared on fivetwentysix this way before). This dish is a slight spin on the traditional prep, served with the katsuobushi flakes but glazed with a smoky bacon "dashi" and topped with gorgeous ikura, or salmon roe. Some yuzu kosho, chili citrus paste, is hiding underneath the tofu as a fun surprise for guests to discover.

Salmon roe are large reddish briny spheres that pop curiously in your mouth. It first appeared on fivetwentsix in the black cod "chicharron" dish, and here we'll be using it as a luxurious topping for the fried tofu; a variation on the traditional caviar course of fine dining. Purists will say that metal spoons react with caviar and imparts an undesirable flavor. I've never taken the risk of verifying this for myself, but regardless I plated with a plastic spoon and gave small ceramic spoons for the guests to use.

Prepare bacon dashi:

Bacon dashi is a creation of David Chang of the Momofuku kitchens. It's exactly what it sounds like: the briny flavor of kombu paired against smoky bacon. It's delicious and useful for many things; we'll be simply thickening it as a glaze for our deep-fried tofu. You'll have extra; put it to good use in soups, broths, or whatever your heart desires.

Rausu kombu is a variety of kombu (kelp) that produces a fragrant, rich stock. It works well in this preparation but is not a hard requirement - use what's available to you.

Ingredients

Makes about 3 cups.

1 sheet rausu kombu

3-4 pieces bacon

Mirin

Shoyu

Rice vinegar

Directions

  1. Wipe the kombu with a damp paper towel, then add it to a pot with 1 quart of cold water. Bring to a very low simmer for 15 minutes; remove and discard the kombu.
  2. Coarsely chop and add the bacon slices; gently simmer for 45 minutes.
  3. Strain, then season the dashi with the mirin, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. Be careful with the soy sauce, as it will already be salty from the bacon. Set aside.

To assemble:

Ingredients

For 4 servings.

1 16-oz package firm tofu

1 cup cornstarch

Rice bran oil, for frying

About 4 Tbsp ikura

Yuzu kosho

1/4 cup katsuobushi flakes

Daikon sprouts for garnish, or other greens

For the bacon dashi glaze:

210g bacon dashi, from above

0.63g xanthan gum (0.3%)

Directions

  1. Prepare the bacon dashi glaze (this can be done ahead of time and reheated): blend the xanthan gum into the bacon dashi with an immersion blender. Set aside.
  2. Slice the tofu into blocks about 2 inches to a side (1 package will make more than 4 blocks). Wrap the blocks in paper towels and weigh down with a few plates for 30 minutes to expel excess water.
  3. Coarsely chop the katsuobushi flakes. Set aside.
  4. Warm the bacon dashi glaze in a small pot on the stove.
  5. Heat about an inch and a half of rice bran oil in a pot for frying to 375F.
  6. Toss the pressed tofu blocks on a plate of cornstarch, coating each side well. Fry in the oil about a minute and a half per side. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
  7. To serve: place about a half teaspoon of yuzu kosho at the bottom of serving bowls. Press a fried tofu block onto the yuzu kosho, and spoon over a few spoonfuls of the warmed bacon dashi glaze. Top with a generous spoonful of ikura, some of the katsuobushi flakes, and the daikon sprouts. Serve immediately.

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