Abura-age is a type of prepared tofu that you might know from inari-sushi or as an ingredient in miso soup – it is thinly sliced and deep fried tofu. When thin tofu is deep fried, it gets puffed up and can be “pouched.” Do not get confused with nama-age or atsu-age which are fried tofus as a whole. They are different.
Abura-age is typically sold in two different sizes depending on brands; 8 x 8 cm and 8 x 16 cm. The great thing about abura-age is that even just one pouch gives a dish great texture and flavor. It is often added to flavor a vegetable dish instead of meat.
Japanese people don’t like the oil that appears on the surface of an abura-age; so, they pour boiling water over it to take some of the oil out from it. I don’t think it is necessary when grilling it, but it is probably be a good idea when making a simmered dish. Once you wash the oil away, squeeze lightly. Now it is ready to use. You can grill the whole thing, or sliced abura-age can be added to a soup or to stir-fry with vegetables. Also if you dry fry it in a pan until crispy, it can be a nice topping on salad, pasta or any dish you can think of. I like to add a little soy sauce on top of crispy abura-age, then I put it on steamed rice. It is one of the my favorite quick meals. Once you get familiar with this, I think it is so much more useful than plain tofu, and easier to use as well.