Tofu steak: a childhood favorite

One of the best things I ever ate growing up was the tofu steak at Kappo Seafood in Torrance. It was this crunchy, creamy, deep fried block of tofu with mushrooms that were stewed in a sukiyaki-type of sauce, served with bonito flakes and scallions. I still remember ordering it as a kid, just out of curiosity, but really falling in love with it. Technically, it is not a vegetarian dish, since dashi and bonito were used it in, but it’s a dish that made me really appreciate the potential of tofu. The tofu acted as a sponge that soaked up that delicious sauce and there was just a bit of chili in there as well, which added a nice kick. The meatiness of the mushrooms, and the umami bomb that was the sweet and zingy sauce underneath them, it makes my mouth water still thinking about it. Now sadly, Kappo Seafood closed years ago, so I haven’t been able to have their tofu steak for a while. But I’ve made my own rendition of it, just so that I can still enjoy it even now!

For the tofu itself, I went with a simple cornstarch dredge. There was a chew to the coating, so I knew it wasn’t tempura or panko. With the mushrooms, I kept that component the same. I did add an addition of radishes, just because I wanted some freshness on the dish, and I also added an herb oil, made from scallions, perilla, and the radish greens, just to add something else to lift the heaviness of the tofu.

Makes enough garnish for three:
For the sukiyaki sauce:
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon dashi powder
1/2 cup water
3 dried shiitakes
a pinch of salt
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons bonito flakes
1 sheet of kombu
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

Combine the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Pass the liquid through a sieve once the mushrooms are completely softened and keep on low heat. Rinse off the mushrooms and slice. Place back into the stock and continue reducing until the mushrooms are plump and darker in color.

For the herb oil:
3 perilla leaves
1/4 cup radish leaves
1 scallion
a pinch of salt

Blanch and shock the leaves and scallions. Transfer to a blender and puree with salt and steam in oil until vibrant green. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a squeeze bottle.

For the tofu:
1 block firm tofu, strained and cut into quarters
1 cup cornstarch
canola oil
a pinch of salt

Mix salt with cornstarch. Toss the tofu into the cornstarch until evenly coated. Deep fry in 330 degrees F oil until golden brown and drain on a paper towel. Finish with salt.

To garnish:
shaved radishes in salted water

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