Agedashi Tofu and Eggplant with Chicken, Ginger and Mushrooms – Top Chef Masters Night

We both believe chef Takashi Yagahashi is a dark horse contender to win this season of Top Chef Masters. We had so many amazing-looking dishes from which to choose, but ultimately it was our need for speed that led us to make our version of chef Takashi’s agedashi tofu and eggplant with chicken, ginger and mushrooms (click here for original recipe). We were making Top Chef Masters Night food and then going dancing at DJ Jake Rudh’s Transmission tribute to John Hughes. So it was time to get fryin’!

Serves two.

Sauce

2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB mirin
2 TB sesame oil
1 TB sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp chili oil
1 tsp lime ponzu sauce (or lime juice + soy sauce)
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp fish sauce

Proteins

1 small eggplant
1/2 lb ground chicken (or pork)
1/2 package extra firm tofu
2 tsp dried ginger (or 1 TB fresh minced ginger)
1 small package Enoki mushrooms
1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms (fresh or dried)
2 green onions
1 TB minced garlic
Olive oil, as needed
Approximately 1 cup vegetable oil (or other high heat oil such as safflower oil)
Corn starch

1/2 cup Jasmine rice

Slice your eggplant and tofu about 1/2-inch thick. Gently press the tofu between paper towels to remove some of the moisture. Dredge in corn starch.

Make your sauce by mixing all sauce ingredients together. Taste as you go along to make sure there’s a good balance of sweet, sour, salty and depth.

Cook your jasmine rice (we use a rice cooker, but you can easily cook it on the stove top as well).

Begin heating your vegetable (or canola or safflower) oil to about 350 degrees. While oil is heating, put a bit of extra virgin olive oil into a saute pan and start cooking your ground chicken (or pork). When about 75 percent cooked through add ginger and garlic. Stir and cook for about one minute. Add mushrooms and onion. Stir and cook for about one minute. Add half of the sauce to the saute pan. Cook for about two more minutes to let sauce thicken. Turn off heat, but leave in pan.

When your oil is up to temperature, drop the tofu in. Don’t put too many pieces in at a time or they’ll be overcrowded and the oil temperature will drop.

When it’s golden brown, remove tofu with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt the hot tofu. Working quickly, fry the eggplant. When it’s golden brown, remove tofu with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Salt the hot eggplant. During the last batch of eggplant, put the meat back on low heat to make sure it’s warm.

Put your rice down on a plate, pile on some of the meat and mushroom mixture, stack the hot tofu and eggplant alongside. Serve the remaining sauce in a bowl on the side so nothing gets soggy.

Hoo-ah, this hit the spot! Anchored by the fragrant rice, the gingery ground chicken and funky mushrooms were mild and lovely. The stars were, of course, the melt-in-your-mouth fried eggplant and tender fried tofu. When dipped into the sweet/salty/sour sauce, we just wanted to keep eating and eating! I’d highly recommend eating the eggplant first because it’s best piping hot.

Would we make this again? Absolutely. It was actually a pretty quick dinner with lots of protein and just a little starch. We don’t fry food very often, but this is a great and easy treat.

Soundtrack: K’s ode to John Hughes as a warm up to our big dance night (fueled by agedashi tofu and eggplant, of course).

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