This Simmered Fried Tofu and Greens is a great side dish to keep handy in the refrigerator as a part of your meal prep. Make ahead and let it soak up the delicious dashi broth for additional flavors.
When it comes to meal planning, especially a Japanese-style Ichiju Sansai (one soup three dishes) setup, I admit that I’m guilty of giving most of my attention to the main. I realize it shouldn’t be that way!
A fresh-tasting vegetable side like this Simmered Fried Tofu and Greens (油揚げと青菜の煮浸し) is sometimes the best part of the meals! Not only it contributes to the overall nutrients but it also goes well with many Japanese and Asian meals.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe:
- Easy and fast to prepare.
- Simple 5 ingredients!!
- Can make ahead and serve when you need one more dish to complete your meal
- Taste better the following day!
- Versatile with ingredients – I’ll share the substitution ideas below.
- Healthy and full of nutrients.
What You’ll Need:
You’ll need only 5 simple ingredients to make this vegetable side dish:
- Aburaage (Japanese deep-fried tofu)
- Greens of your choice – Today I used Komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach)
- Soy sauce
The most important ingredient here is dashi (だし) – Japanese soup stock. If you have never heard of dashi, please read this post where I explain what it is and how you can prepare it – from making all from scratch (takes only 30 minutes!) to using the instant method.
I don’t recommend substituting dashi with other types of broth. It is what gives the authentic “Japanese” flavor.
More about the dashi below.
The Key Ingredients and Substitutions
Let’s talk about the 3 main ingredients and what else you can use as substitutions for this recipe:
Aburaage (Fried Tofu Pouch)
The Japanese fried tofu pouch can be hard to find if you don’t live close to a well-stocked Japanese or Asian grocery store. You can use Chinese crispy tofu puffs that are square and fried. It’s pretty close to Aburaage, except for the size and shapes.
You can also use firm tofu (I still recommend deep-fried tofu over regular tofu as it has more flavors!), fish balls (cut in half), fish cakes, or other protein of your choice.
For variations, you can also try it with Atsuage (thick fried tofu) or Chikuwa (fish cake with a hole in the middle), or Satsuma Age (fried fish cake, sometimes mixed with seafood or vegetables).
In this recipe, I use Komatsuna, Japanese mustard spinach, which you can find in Japanese grocery stores or local farmers’ markets. However, you can definitely make this dish with different greens such as:
- Bok choy
- Napa cabbage
Dashi (Japanese Soup Stock)
I use Awase Dashi, with kombu and katsuobushi in this recipe. That’s my go-to dashi unless I state otherwise.
For vegans/vegetarians, please make Vegan Dashi.
Dashi is the main flavor in this simmered dish; therefore, I highly recommend making your own dashi or at least using a dashi packet (my favorite brand) to make good, tasty dashi.
3 Quick Tips Before You Start Cooking
- Always add dense ingredients or parts first – When it comes to leafy greens, there are denser (bottom) and leafy parts. Don’t cook them together. The denser parts need a head start before you toss in the leafy greens so they are cooked at the same time.
- Simmer gently – Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 3-5 minutes (depending on the ingredients).
- Let it steep – You can serve the dish immediately, but I highly recommend steeping. Let cool at the counter until it’s at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying it. We reheat it before serving, or serve at room temp or chilled (which I prefer).
I would serve this dish with Teriyaki Salmon, Kabocha Miso Soup, brown rice, and some pickles. Have fun making different variations of this versatile side dish!
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Simmered Fried Tofu and Greens
- 1 piece aburaage (deep-fried tofu pouch) (¾ oz, 20 g)
- 6 oz komatsuna (or any greens such as spinach, bok choy, cabbage, napa cabbage, lettuce, Mizuna, etc)
- 1 cup dashi (Japanese soup stock; click to learn more) (for vegan/vegetarian, make Vegan Dashi)
- ½ tsp soy sauce (Use gluten-free soy sauce for GF)
- ½ tsp kosher salt (Diamond Crystal; use half for table salt)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- Cut off the bottom of your greens and cut them into 2 inches (5cm) pieces.
- Cut the aburaage into 3/8 inch pieces (1 cm).
- In a medium saucepan, add dashi and aburaage and bring it to a simmer. Once simmering, add soy sauce and salt.
- Mix all together and then add the dense parts (stems) of the greens.
- Mix all together and cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add the tender parts (leaves) of the greens.
- Mix together and simmer on low heat for 3 minutes (depending on the ingredients). Transfer the dish (with cooking liquid) to an airtight container and let cool to steep.
To Serve and Store
- You can serve right away, but I recommend resting the dish for overnight. You can keep in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days or freezer for up to 1 month. Reheat before serving, or you can serve at room temp or chilled (which I prefer).