If you’ve ever seen an anime featuring the Shinto kami (god), Inari Okami, and its’ kitsune, or fox gods, you would know that their favourite food is inari age, or seasoned deep fried tofu pouches….
A little sweet, a little savoury, inari age is really not the most attractive food ever (it’s kinda… just brown coloured? Floppy? Damp?)… but trust me when I say it’s delicious! The tofu pouches have a slight sponginess with a nice bit of chew, and really soaks up the sauce it’s seasoned in.
In anime, inari age shows up in all over the place…. And, just like in real life, in anime, inari age is not eaten on it’s own. Instead, it is commonly seen added to udon to make kitsune udon, or stuffed with seasoned sushi rice to make inari zushi. It is also used as a garnish in some Japanese dishes, such as hijiki (a type of seaweed dish).
About the recipe:
Of course, you can buy pre-made inari age in a store, but I will just say that I never truly fell in love with this dish until I took the time to actually season the aburaage, or deep fried tofu pouches, myself. When made yourself, it really tastes so much more delicious than anything I’ve ever found in a pre-made package!
Making inari age is pretty simple and takes only a small amount of cooking. The most important step to take note of is to try to remove as much of the excess water from the aburaage as possible after boiling it briefly to remove the excess oil and oil smell. If too much water is left in the aburaage (those pouches can soak up a lot of water!), your sauce will be diluted, and the resulting taste of the seasoned tofu pouches will not be as strong as it should be.
About the ingredients:
Unseasoned, deep fried tofu pouches, or aburaage, can be found in many Asian grocery stores. Just make sure to check whether it’s seasoned (inari age) or unseasoned (aburaage). The seasoned version tends to be darker in colour, being more brown than yellow/tan.
Note that the pieces of aburaage generally comes in the form of a long rectangle and will need to be cut in half crosswise in order to turn them into pouches (packaged inari age is already cut in half and ready to use).
Inari age (seasoned deep fried tofu pouches)
Makes 12 inari age
- 6 aburaage (deep fried tofu pouches)
- 1 cup dashi stock
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1. Remove the aburaage from the package, cover with a piece of plastic wrap and, using a rolling pin, roll it across the aburaage to help the sides of the pouches to separate. Cut the aburaage in half crosswise. You should now have 12 pieces of aburaage.
2. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add tofu pouches and cover with a drop lid, or otoshibuta, as the aburaage tends to float. Boil for 2 -3 minutes to remove the excess oil and the oil smell. Gently remove from the water, being careful not to break the pouches, rinse in cold water, and drain well in a strainer. Using your hands, gently squeeze the excess water from the aburaage.
3. In a large pot (works best with one that has a large surface area) combine dashi stock, sugar, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil and add aburaage. Cover with a drop lid, or otoshibuta. Cook on medium heat for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the majority of the liquid has evaporated. When the pot is tilted on it’s side, little to no sauce should gather. Remove from heat and let cool.
4. When cooled, squeeze most, but not all, of the liquid from the seasoned inari age using your hands. Reserve the liquid squeezed from the inari age if planning on making inari zushi.
Inari age can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week, or frozen for up to one month.
Use inari age in a variety of other dishes, including kitsune udon or inari zushi.