Last Updated on February 14, 2021
Tofu gets a little fancy looking with very simple ingredients with easy steps! This Pan-Fried Tofu with Sweet & Savory Sauce is a perfect dish to serve for any special occasion (or not) to satisfy both your palette and eyes!
Tofu. Fancy or Not?
Tofu is one of the grocery staples in a Japanese house hold. We eat it for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. You can buy them at any grocery store and choose from many brands and different varieties. That being said, tofu dishes can be very special. Especially, when the tofu itself is made with great quality soy beans and carefully crafted by a tofu master. To have an access to this type of artisan tofu isn’t uncommon in Japan. Those tofu has an exceptional flavor that is very rich and aromatic. You can taste the quality of soy beans once you bite into it. However here in the U.S., especially where we live, no such luxury tofu is available.
So, tofu dishes that we can make here is nothing fancy. That’s when we like making (plating) it look fancier with the same familiar taste that you would cook and eat at home!
Fancy up the Tofu
First, for the flavor, the tofu is pan-fried (seared) with toasted sesame oil. This will give a nutty flavor compared to cooking it in plain neutral-flavored oil such as sunflower oil or grapeseed oil.
Now, this is the fan part! For the plating, instead of dressing the tofu and the sauce together, we plate as a separate component. Spread the sauce on the plate, then place the tofu pieces on the sauce. Then top it off with scallions and shichimi pepper. Just by doing this, it will have the look of restaurant style without spending a fortune.
Of course, the alternative way has exactly the same exact flavor. So fancy or un-fancy? It’s your choice!
The Sweet & Savory Sauce
It’s that thing again, sweet & savory! It’s a common flavor combination in Japanese cooking. In this particular recipe, we use miso and soy sauce for the savory part then sugar and mirin for the sweet one. It tastes similar to teriyaki sauce but has miso and it’s slightly richer. We intentionally kept this sauce very simple. That means not chopping and grating! Just open the cap, mix, and cook!
Saucy or Not Enough Sauce?
We noted this on the actual recipe. It depends on a region of the cuisine but most Japanese dishes are not saucy at all, or at least non-Japanese find them not saucy enough. We kept the ingredients amount of the sauce in the “Japanese way.” Don’t be surprised by how little the sauce is! Trust us, it’s just enough to give the rich sweet & savory flavor to the tofu (approved by Peter.)
If you want to eat like us, keep the original amount. If you aren’t sure, just double the amount to be safe!
Other Sweet & Savory Creations
Check them out if you’re a fan of this irresistible flavor combo of sweet & savory!
Pan-Fried Okra in Sweet & Savory Miso Sauce
Sweet & Savory Daikon Radish Leaves
Japanese Sweet & Savory Tofu Scramble (Iri-Dofu)
Pan-Fried Tofu with Sweet & Savory Sauce
- 1 block (14 oz drained) extra firm tofu
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
Sweet & Savory Sauce (Double the amount if you like saucier)
- 1 tbsp miso
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tbsp mirin
- 1/2 - 1 tbsp water
- 1 scallion julienned
- Shichimi pepper
- Cut the block of tofu into 12 pieces (about 1-inch thickness.) On a cutting board or tray, place 2 sheets of paper towels. Place the tofu on the paper towels in a single layer then top with another 2 sheets. Put a plate on it to gently squeeze out excess water. Don’t press! Leave it for 15 minutes.
- Heat up a frying pan at medium to medium high heat. Toasted sesame oil and cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes on each side until crispy and golden brown. If/when the pan is getting too hot, reduce the heat to medium to avoid burning. Set aside. Repeat the process (if necessary) to cook all 12 pieces.
- Use the same pan to make the sauce. At medium heat, pour the sweet & savory sauce mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes just until the alcohol of mirin evaporates (it will thicken.) Remove from the heat immediately.
- Place the sauce on a plate and spread out. Then put 3-4 pieces of tofu per person on top of the sauce. Top it with a desired amount of scallion and shichimi pepper for the spicy kick.
- As an alternate way of serving, dress and coat the tofu pieces with the sauce. Then top it with a desired amount of scallion and shichimi pepper for the spicy kick.
- Typically, Japanese dishes are not drenched with sauce so follow the exact recipe of the sauce if you want to savor it in the way that’s served for the Japanese. But if you enjoy saucier dishes, double the amount of each ingredient in the sauce section. If you are not sure, just make it double anyways, and keep the leftover in the fridge and consume within 2-3 days.