Simmered Aburage Pouches (Fukuro-ni)
I spied a recipe for Fukuro-ni, or gold purses, in "Japanese Cooking, a Simple Art" - my usual go-to resource, and was immediately intrigued. Probably because anything wrapped up - whether dumplings, rolls, or whatnot - always gets my attention. Fukuro-ni is in essence little bags of deep fried tofu containing meats, vegetables and/or tofu, simmered slowly in a classic broth of dashi, mirin and soy sauce. The little bags suck up the flavor from the broth, resulting in something hot, flavorful and juicy, sort of like a xiaolongbao, or soup dumpling. My theory on this is to choose filling that results in varied texture, or mouthfeel. I chose lotus root and carrot for crunch, napa cabbage for softness, shiitake for a earthy flavor, and tofu for both flavor-absorption and softness.
- 8 aburage, or fried tofu skins, roughly square and ~4" per side
- 2-3 leaves of napa cabbage, chopped finely
- 1/3 block of firm tofu, pressed and diced
- 1/3 boiled lotus root, minced
- 1 carrot, minced
- cooking twine/string
- 2 1/2 cups dashi (fish stock)
- 4 tbsp mirin
- 4 tbsp soy sauce
- Pressing tofu is a way to get the excess water out. To press, sandwich your tofu in a few layers of paper towel or clean kitchen towel, and place a heavy object on top. Leave this be for 20 mins or so.
- Bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil - dip the tofu skins in briefly to eliminate some of the excess oil - and place on paper towels to dry.
- Prep all your veggies (and your tofu when it's been pressed): mince/dice your naba cabbage, lotus root and carrot. Briefly blanch the napa cabbage to soften and reduce the water content. Mix it all thoroughly in a bowl.
- To create pouches from your skins: since my tofu skins were well-sized for these pouches, I simply sliced the very top off. Use your hands to gently work an opening into the skins and create a pouch. Stuff the skins with the veggie mixture, leaving enough room to securely tie the pouches with a bit of cooking string.
- Bring your broth - dashi, mirin and soy sauce - to boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Gently place the bags upright in the broth. Now, a key technique of successful Japanese simmering is to use something called a drop-lid, or otoshibuta. These are wooden lids that press down on the food and distribute even heat, while also allowing flavor/sauce to circulate. Make your own by cutting a circle of aluminum foil roughly the diameter of your pot. Cut a small circular vent in the middle, and simply place on top of your food.
- Simmer for 30 minutes, and serve in shallow bowls, with a spoonful of sauce. I like to serve no more than 2 to a person, and as an appetizer, since they can be quite rich.
Serving Size: 4
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Preparation Time: 35 minutes