This Asian inspired dish layers creamy tofu encased in crispy tempura batter on top of fresh crunchy cucumber that has been smothered in a zingy ginger and sesame oil dressing.
My favourite dishes are those that include contrasts in taste and/or texture. Colour contrasts are a bonus. This dish certainly has such contrasts. The tempura tofu was such a delight to bite into. So crisp yet with a silky smooth centre. The fresh and crunchy ginger coated cucumber was a lively second act, refreshing the palate ready for the next bite of tofu.
To get the greatest contrast between the crunch of the batter and the creaminess of the tofu, I used silken tofu for this tempura tofu. The downside is that silken tofu is very delicate and breaks easily. Regular tofu works too, but don’t use a firm tofu. There is a great guid here on types of tofu.
I usually buy a tempura flour mix, though it is easy to prepare yourself. Sift together 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of rice starch, and one tablespoon of corn starch. A number of tempura batter recipes use an egg. I prefer it without the egg. Just lightly combine the flour mix with very cold sparkling water and use. Light and crisp. A well chilled lager beer works well too.
Tempura tofu is such a versatile ingredient. You can pair it with such a wide range of accompaniments. There is this corn salsa for example.
Tempura tofu on smashed cucumber with sesame oil and ginger
- 400 g silken tofu
- 150 g tempura flour mix
- 1 can lager beer well chilled
- Oil for shallow or deep frying
- 4 medium sized cucumbers
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tsp sesame oil
- 3 tsp ginger juice squeezed from about 2 “thumbs” worth of freshly grated ginger
- 3 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 Tbsp Japanese pickled ginger
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup rinsed coriander leaves removed from their stems
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- Cut tofu into bite sized pieces (1.5 to 2cm per side). Handle with care. Silken tofu is delicate.
- Whisk lager beer into the tempura flour mix until it reaches a heavy cream consistency.
- Bring the oil to a high heat.
- Coat the tofu pieces in the batter, then add to the oil. Turn over after a couple of minutes.
- When golden all over, remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- To smash the cucumber, cut into 10cm pieces and halve length ways.
- Lay cut side down. Place the flat edge of a large knife on top of the cucumber and punch down lightly on it so that the cucumber breaks up a bit. The skin should crack and the seeds separate. Discard the seeds.
- Dice the larger portions into bit sized pieces.
- Place the smashed cucumber into a colander, sprinkle with 2 tsp salt and toss.
- Place a bowl under the colander and allow the moisture to drain from the cucumber for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Dressing and final preparation
- To prepare the dressing, in a bowl combine the rice vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 2 tsp sugar. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- Stir in the sesame oil, ginger juice, soy sauce, and half the crushed garlic.
- When ready to serve, shake off any remaining liquid from the cucumber.
- Drizzle with the olive oil, add the remainder of the garlic, pickled ginger, and coriander leaves and toss.
- Drizzle with the 1/2 the dressing and toss until well coated.
- Garnish with sesame seeds.
- Use the other half of the dressing as a dipping sauce for the tofu.