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Atsu-age is a type of deep-fried tofu, and made by thickly cutting tofu and frying in oil. “Atsu” is Japanese term for “thick”, by the way.
Unlike abura-age (thin fried tofu), you don’t fry it all the way to the inside so that the inside keeps the texture of tofu. That is why atsu-age is also called nama-age, “nama” is Japanese term for “raw”.
Atsu-age is less likely to crumble than regular tofu, so it’s popular to use when making simmered dishes and stir-fried dishes.
As you may know, there are basically 2 types of tofu: silken tofu and firm tofu. Atsu-age can be made from both of them, but it usually refers to the one made from firm tofu when it comes to atsu-age in Japan.
The one made from silken tofu has much more smooth texture than the one made from firm tofu.
1. Cut the tofu that has been thoroughly drained into half pieces.
2. Fry in hot oil. (The temperature should be 356 to 392℉ / 180℃ to 200℃.)
3. Pull it out of the oil when the surface turns dark brown.
The deep-fried skin of tofu is quite thick and has a strong presence.
Although the basic taste of atsu-age is the one of tofu, the fried skin can add great flavor of oil and juicy delicious taste to it.
Bake the Surface Lightly
If you bake the surface of atsu-age till slightly browned, it will be great finger food (appetizer). You can sprinkle your favorite toppings such as minced green onion, dried bonito shavings, or cheese. Any flavor of dipping sauce (I like ponzu sauce) goes well with this simple yet delicious tofu.
Simmered Dish (Oden)
Atsu-age has the characteristic that the taste is easily absorbed and the shape does not easily collapse. So, this is the perfect material for simmered dishes. Any flavor of dish is fine, but oden (stew of various types of fish paste and vegetables) is especially popular dish using atsu-age.
Atsu-age doesn’t lose its shape even if it’s fried vigorously, so it’s absolutely suitable for stir-fried dish too. If you add your favorite vegetables or mushrooms, it will be perfect nutritious main dish for you without using some meat.
As with abura-age and regular tofu, atsu-age is also very popular ingredient in miso soup. It makes the soup more rich and delicious. Of course, you can add it into different kind of soups besides miso soup.