Saturday, October 17, 2009

Grilled Tofu with miso 豆腐の味噌田楽

This is also a classic small dish perfect for Home Izakaya. I am not going to get into a lengthy discussion of how this type of dish came to be called "dengaku" 田楽. The name reportedly came from the appearance of the dish (square with skewers) which resembles a small stage on stilts set up in a rice paddy. Music and dance were performed on this stage for a rustic rice planting cerebration in old Japan which is called "dengaku", translated as "enjoyment in a rice paddy". Small portions of tofu, potato, egg plant, "kon-nyaku" or other vegetable are placed on a skewer and grilled with some type of sauce (miso-based is most common). Some items such as potato may need to be pre-cooked before it is grilled. This dish is a sort of snack on a stick, Japanese style.

 Here, I used a "firm" or "momen-goshi" tofu. I drained it and placed it between paper towels with some weight on it, not too heavy, for 5-10 minutes to remove additional water. I then cut it into small rectangles. I broiled it (without the skewer because the skewer might burn) in an oven with high heat--placing it very close to the heating elements so that the surface browns as the tofu is warmed through. Turn over once. You can also cook it on a grill or in a toaster oven. Take it out and coat the upper surface with a generous amount of a miso sauce which I described before. This one was made with sugar, sake, dashi, sesame paste, lime juice and grated lime and lemon zests (additional lime zest was added later as garnish as shown above). Put it back under the broiler for a few minutes until the sauce bubbles and gets nicely brown. If you use a grill, you could use a kitchen torch to brown the miso sauce.  Browning the miso sauce is important as it will make the miso fragrant. Put the skewer in as shown above.  The skewer is a sort of decoration here but to qualify for a "dengaku" dish you will need a skewer for the reason described above. Besides, it also allows you to pick it up by hand. Serve immediately while hot.

Classically,"kinome" should be used as a garnish--it looks very nice and has a distinctive flavor. But "kinome" is very difficult to come by in the U.S., unless you have a "sansho" or "Sichuan or Japanese pepper" tree in your backyard. "kinome" is the young shoot of this tree. As long as you do not add any meat or egg yolk to the miso sauce (which are common variations of this type of miso sauce) and use kelp or vegetable dashi broth, this dish is strictly vegetarian.

I served this with a American mini cucumber cut in "jabara" or a snake belly style with a sweet miso sauce.

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