Seriously Asian: Scrambled Tofu

"The meal satisfies meat devotees and tofu lovers alike."

[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

Wondering what to do with all those leftover birds from the holidays? Roast any ham hocks with the skins still attached? If so, consider using some of that juicy, crackling skin for this tofu dish, a Japanese classic in the wintertime. Iri-dofu, or scrambled tofu, features three of my favorite ingredients: tofu, eggs, and dashi, in one homey and satisfying preparation.

There are many variations for iri-dofu but my favorite comes from the late chef Shizuo Tsuji, who used the fat rendered from chicken skin to sauté the tofu.

Making the dish is simple. Crumble tofu with your fingers. Sauté with chicken skin and vegetables. Simmer in dashi, mirin, and soy sauce. The scrambled tofu, browned slightly in the chicken fat, absorbs the savory flavors of the dashi and soy sauce. Just before serving, crack an egg or two into the pan and stir gently, coating each flavorful nugget of crumbled tofu in the richness of the eggs.

Though poultry skin remains my favorite ingredient for this preparation, the base of tofu and egg pairs well with just about any ingredient you have: shiitake mushrooms, carrots, snow peas, and shrimp are a few favorites.

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Since I always seem to have extra dashi and tofu on hand, this dish has become a weekly staple in my house, a reflection of the seasonal changes at the farmers' market. When the assortment of eggplants appear in the fall, I fry slices of young Japanese eggplants, adding them to the simmering mixture at the last moment.

Whatever you decide to use, the key to this dish is to take the pan off the heat the minute you add the eggs. The eggs, which bind together the disparate ingredients, should barely cook from the heat of the tofu mixture. The texture of the tofu-egg concoction should be creamy, soft, and moist.

Finally, while the majority of the skin is simmered alongside the tofu and vegetables, I like to reserve a few strips of the crispy skin to add at the last moment for a textural contrast. On special nights, I'll use duck instead of chicken skin—the meal satisfies meat devotees and tofu lovers alike.

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Seriously Asian: Scrambled Tofu

About This Recipe

Yield:4 as a main dish

Ingredients

  • 1 block firm or medium-firm tofu, about 10 oz
  • approximately 2 oz of chicken skin, about six 2-inch sections
  • 3 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 carrot or a 2 inch section of daikon, julienned
  • 1/2 cup dashi
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1. Heat a skillet over low heat. Add the strips of chicken skin, slowly rendering the fat until the skin is golden brown and crispy. If desired, set aside a few strips of chicken skin to add later.
  • 2. Turn the heat to medium high. Add the mushrooms, sauteeing for three to four minutes until the surface of the mushroom is lightly golden brown. Add the carrots and stir around for a minute to soften.
  • 3. Using your fingers, crumble the tofu into the pan. Add a bit of oil, if necessary, to continue browning the tofu. After a few minutes, when the tofu is drier, add all of the dashi, soy sauce, salt, and mirin.
  • 4. Over medium heat, simmer the ingredients in the dashi mixture until the liquid is almost completely reduced. Turn off the heat and crack the eggs into the pan, stirring around to evenly coat the tofu mixture. If necessary, finish co
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