Bento filler: Green beans and aburaage (fried tofu skins)
I swear this site has not gone all vegetarian - I'll have some recipes for you omnivores soon! Still, now that the weather is so sunny and beautiful here, and with the abundance of great produce, it just seems easier to think up vegetable recipes. This one can be used as a filler or a vegan main in a bento, and is dead easy to make - and it just uses four ingredients! The main ones are fresh green beans and aburaage, deep fried tofu skins. No oil is added, since we utilize the residual oil on the aburaage instead. This dish keeps quite well in the refrigerator, so you can make a batch and use it throughout the week.
Recipe: Stir-fried green beans and aburaage (fried tofu skins)
This makes about 6 servings when used as a vegan main, with 50 calories per serving; all the calories basically come from the aburaage.
- 1 packet of aburaage (they usually contain 3 per pack, and can be found in the frozen or refrigerated section of a Japanese grocery store)
- About 225 g / 8 oz or so of fresh green beans; I used the thin kind called haricot verts in the UK/US (which just means 'green beans' in French), but any kind of fresh green beans will do. (You could use frozen green beans, though they won't be as good of course.)
- 2 Tbs. soy sauce
- A pinch of dried chili pepper flakes. Alternatively you can use ichimi tohgarashi or shichimi/nanami tohgarashi instead if you have one of them around for your udon and soba - see Essential Japanese ingredients
Cut the aburaage into thin strips. Do not blanch the aburaage; this goes against the usual advice given for dealing with aburaage, and against the advice I've given you before - see inarizushi redux. But hey, rules are made to be broken sometimes! As you cut the aburaage, you will notice that your hands get a bit oily. We'll be using this oil as the cooking oil for the whole dish.
Wash and cut off the tops and tails of the green beans. If needed, slice them in half.
Heat up a non-stick frying pan or wok. Add the aburaage strips, and stir fry until the strips get a bit crispy. The pan should be a bit oily at this point, from the oil in the skins.
Add the green beans, and lower the heat to about medium. Stir fry a little, then put on a lid and steam-cook for about 3-4 minutes until the green beans are crisp-tender.
Remove the lid and turn the heat up again. Add the soy sauce to the hot surface of the pan, not directly onto the green beans, so that you see and smell the soy sauce sizzle. Rapidly stir fry so the soy sauce coats everything.
Add the red chili pepper flakes or ichimi tohgarashi powder. Taste, and add a bit more if you like it spicier, or a bit more soy sauce.
Let cool before packing into a bento box.
This will keep for up to a week, well covered, in the refrigerator.
Add a few drops of dark sesame oil when you are sautéing the aburaage, for that toasty flavor it gives.
You could, in a pinch, use pre-cooked canned inarizushi skins...but since they are already stewed, they may sort of disintegrate if you put them in first. If you use the canned skins, sauté your green beans first in a little oil, then add the strips of inarizushi skin later. You may want to use the can liquid instead of soy sauce. But do try to get unstewed aburaage for this, since it will be way better.
The biggest aburaage I've ever seen
I made this particular batch with some fresh aburaage that my intrepid mother brought with her all the way from Japan. She's holding up a couple of them up here - just look at the size of them! They are at least as big as four regular aburaage skins.
We used the middle bits for the green bean stir fry, and the end pieces to make some inarizushi. The skins were a tad oily and quite puffy, since they are virtually handmade by a small tofu shop in Kyoto. The inarizushi were quite spectacular - very puffy and beany, in a good way.
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