Japanese food has always been very accommodating to vegetarians - although veggies might struggle in Japan itself (even some of the tofu there contains gelatine) Japanese flavours lend themselves very well to vegetarian dishes.
In Japan it's likely that one of the very few places you can get some guaranteed veggie grub is in a Buddhist temple - many soups and dishes in Japan may appear vegetarian, but there's always hidden fish stock to watch out for.
Most veggies know tofu is a fantastic source of protein and lots of other things non-meat-eaters miss from their diets, but on its own it can be very bland. That's why you usually need to marinade it or dress it with something lovely to get the most from it. In this recipe, we'll teach you how to use Japanese Panko breadcrumbs to create a crisp sesame coating on your tofu, which can then be served with curries, soups and seasoned rice. It's both delicious, and simple to make!
Here's how to do it:
You will need:
1 Block of Firm Tofu
1/2 Cup of Soy Sauce
1/4 Cup of Rice Wine
1/4 Cup of Mirin
Splash of Sesame oil
1/2 Cup of Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 Cup of sesame seeds
Thinly Sliced Spring Onions
1 Beaten Egg
First things first, if you want to avoid crumbly tofu you're going to need to press and drain your block of tofu - this removes all excess moisture and makes it firmer and easier to work with. Drain what you can from the tofu by placing the tofu in a colander in the sink - place a plate on top of this, then weigh it down with a few tins. Leave for about an hour, before dabbing the tofu in kitchen roll to remove the last of the moisture.
Cut your tofu into portions, whichever size you prefer.
In a ziploc bag, mix together the soy sauce, rice wine, mirin and sesame oil to make a marinade. Place the tofu in this and coat well, then leave to absorb the flavours for two hours.
After two hours, remove the tofu and again soak up excess marinade on the tofu with kitchen roll.
In a dish, mix together the panko and sesame seeds, read for the coating.
Dip the tofu pieces in beaten egg, then transfer to the panko mixture. Coat entirely then place on a plate ready to fry.
Heat up about 1 inch of vegetable oil then add a few of the tofu pieces at a time. Fry until crisp and golden.
You can optionally serve this with a simple dipping sauce - we love a mix of soy sauce, fresh chilies, rice wine vinegar and lime juice, but the tofu is equally as delicious when served with curry or udon noodle soup.