OK everyone, here's the deal. I am on a TIME CRUNCH this week, and have been for the past few weeks, as evidenced by my missing post last week... I am starting a new job, getting ready to move house, making some significant life changes, and trying to keep my head above water. Literally, at this very minute, I am writing this post during a ten-minute break for my new job's orientation. Time management at its finest.
Now, I don't like tofu. I don't buy it. I don't cook it. I even leave the tiny little pieces you get in your miso soup at the bottom of the bowl. My reasoning is this: It's boring- it's plain. Has no taste. Has a passable texture that is closely replicated in something like a panna cotta, which is both more delicious and more fun to make. If I wanted a protein, my first go-to would be a meat, fish, or even legumes. Definitely not tofu. And, at this very tumultuous time in my life, I crave comfort food- not tofu. So, my challenge this week was to make tofu in a way that I would actually enjoy it. At first I despaired, because it's just so very tasteless...
After some recipe research, however, I found that this tastelessness could be the thing that's good about tofu. Tofu has the unique quality of adopting a flavor introduced to it very well, since it has no substantial flavor of its own. This, coupled with the silky texture of softer tofu, or the tougher texture of firmer tofu, can be a nice way to serve a seasoning or sauce in a way that isn't overpowering. In Restaurant to Another World, this is exactly what happens!
The way it's presented in the anime is very simple- grated daikon, homemade ponzu, with a small garnish of perilla leaves. The flavors themselves are simple, but by making your own ponzu and grating the daikon fresh, these simple gestures elevate the delectability of tofu to a level even I, with my tofu hater ways, can accept.
I never knew freshly made ponzu could be so good. However, the lightness and freshness of the citrus, coupled with the umami of the seaweed brings forth a depth and complexity that helps transform the tofu. Don't buy homemade! It's so easy to make on your own. Surprisingly, to me at least, the daikon also did a great job of elevating the flavor- it's a bit spicy, so it paired well with the ponzu to make a spicy-sweet combination with those citrusy overtones. Perilla garnish grounds the dish with an earthy, herbal overtone that ties the daikon and the ponzu together, and transforms the tofu into a delicious, vegan feast!
Watch the video below for more details on how to start your own steak!
Ingredients for the Tofu Steak:
Ponzu Sauce (adapted from here)
To Make the Tofu Steak:
1. Start with the ponzu! Combine all ingredients together and set aside for at least 2 hours.
2. Once ponzu has had time to sit, split tofu blocks into four pieces. I did this by halving the whole block so it was about 1/2 inch thick, and then halving those pieces again.
3. Pat dry, season with salt on all sides, and place a heavy plate on top of the tofu. Prop up so one end is slanted down, and let the tofu drain, about 15 minutes.
4. In the meantime, grate daikon using a daikon grater or a cheese grater. Roll up perilla leaves and cut thinly in a chiffonade.
5. Pat tofu dry again, season with salt again, and sprinkle cornstarch on each side.
6. Heat oil over medium high. When ready, fry the tofu, about 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown all over. Remove and drain excess oil.
7. Plate with potatoes, carrots, and spinach. Garnish tofu steak with daikon, a spoonful of ponzu, and a sprinkling of perilla leaves.