age-fuku bukuro arranged in the pan before simmering
The first dish from my tofu cooking class that I tried at home was age fuku-bukuro, simmered tofu pouches stuffed with vegetables and chicken. This recipe uses the long, rectangular abura-age that are more common at my market than the square ones that I am used to using for inari sushi.
In class, we learned some interesting tips for pressing the air out of the pouches to make them easier to open: after cutting them in half, you can roll a cooking chopstick over the age from the closed end to the cut end to force out the air, or you can place the age half on your palm and slap it, bringing your hands together from the closed end first. I preferred the slapping method since it’s quick, but it is a bit messier too.
long abura-age whole (bottom) and cut in half (top) – simmering the fuku-bukuro beneath a parchment lid
Another tip that I put to use was to give the dried kampyo a salt scrub if they haven’t had as long a time to soak as you’d like (the salt scrub is unnecessary if you use the chemical-free kampyo and you let them soak for a long time).
I don’t have an otoshi-buta (drop-lid, a wooden lid that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the pan), so I used a parchment circle instead to help keep the simmering pouches moist.
I made a double batch of the fuku bukuro so that we could have some for dinner and enough leftover for my bento the next day. Alex loved them, so I think that these will become a regular in my meal planning. I imagine these slightly sweet and salty pouches might be popular with kids who won’t eat their vegetables too.
the finished fuku-bukuro with our dinner: rice, nuka-zuke, namul salad, cabbage salad with creamy sesame dressing, and miso soup with mushrooms and kamaboko (not pictured
Age Fuku-Bukuro (Treasure Bags)
by Elizabeth Andoh, copyright 2008, all rights reserved
3 to 4 servings (makes 10 pouches)
2 long ribbons of kampyo (dried gourd), each about 2 yards long, soaked in warm water
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
5 slices fried tofu sheets (abura-age)
1 small package (about 6 ounces) shirataki, drained, and coarsely chopped
2 small fresh shiitake mushrooms or 2 ounces other wild mushrooms
1 small (about 1/2 ounce) chunk carrot; scraped and minced or cut in thin julienne
1 small chunk gobo (burdock root), scraped and minced or cut in thin julienne; optional
1 small chunk renkon (lotus root), peeled and minced or cut in thin julienne; optional
scant 100 grams (about 3 ounces) ground raw chicken meat
2 tablespoons fresh (or defrosted frozen) green peas (about 1/2 ounce) or edamame
3/4 to 1 cup dashi (basic stock) and/or liquid from soaking kampyo (if kampyo is chemical-free)
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Remove the dried gourd ribbons from the warm water in which they were soaking; reserve this liquid to use as additional stock when simmering the pouches. Squeeze out excess liquid. Rub with salt, kneading the gourd until soft and velvety. Rinse under cold water. Remove, and set aside to cool.
In a pot of boiling water, blanch the shirataki noodles for 1 minute. Remove them with a fine-meshed skimmer, or a small-hole slotted spoon, and let them cool to room temperature naturally. Use scissors to cut into approximately 1-inch lengths.
In the same boiling water, blanch the fried tofu sheets (abura-age). Cut each in half across the (narrow) center and gently pry the fried tofu sheets open with your fingertips to make pouches.
Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms (these can be saved to enhance a soup stock) and wipe the caps clean before thinly slicing.
In a small bowl, combine the blanched shirataki noodles, shiitake or other mushrooms, carrot and any other root vegetables (if using them). Add the ground chicken and blend well before adding the drained peas. Mix well, and divide into 10 portions. Stuff each pouch with a portion of the vegetable and chicken mixture. Close each pouch by pressing down on one open edge, tucking it in slightly to enclose the filling. Fold in the right and left sides (it will look somewhat like an envelope flap), and roll the stuffed bean curd over so that the “seam” will be on the bottom.
Lay one of the uncut gourd ribbons on a flat surface. Place a stuffed pouch, folded edge facing down, on top near one end of the gourd ribbon. Tie the gourd, making a knot on top. Snip the gourd with scissors, or cut with a knife to separate. Repeat, tying up all the stuffed pouches in a similar fashion.
In a wide, shallow pot, combine the simmering liquid ingredients. Bring the liquid rapidly to a boil over high heat. Then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer and add the stuffed pouches, knots facing down. Simmer them for 10 minutes, skimming away any froth as it appears. Use an otoshi-buta (dropped lid) for superior results; without one, check the level of liquid often, adding more stock as needed to prevent scorching. Flip the pouches (to position the knots on top) half way through the simmering process to ensure even cooking and coloration. When finished cooking, the pouches should be firm with almost no liquid remaining in the pot.
Serve immediately: Place 2 or 3 stuffed pouches in a shallow bowl or deep-rimmed plate. Spoon any remaining broth over the pouches to moisten them.
NOTE: If you wish, make the pouches to serve at a future time. Let them cool completely in the pot before transferring them to a lidded container and refrigerating. The pouches do not freeze well – they become tough and spongy.