Takarabukuro (Japanese: "Treasure Bags")
Roughly translates as "treasure bag", in culinary terms it's a deep fried tofu pocket filled with various of goodies. This versatile little dish can be added in soups or made as a side dish. It is commonly added to Oden (Japanese assorted soup). Feel free to make adjustments to the recipe, just consider the cooking time for the ingredients you add (for ex.- raw meats/veggies take longer to cook than precooked ones). It don't even have to be any of the ingredients I listed. :D See footnotes for more details.
- 10 small abura-age fried tofu
- 10 toothpick or something edible you can use to tie the bags
Filling Suggestions (take your pick)
- 10 beef chunks or strips
- 10 pork chunks or strips
- 10 chicken chunks or strips
- 10 fish any favored fish, chunks or sliced
- 10 egg quail or hen; raw or preboiled
- 1 cup baby bamboo shoot sliced
- 1 cup enoki mushroom cleaned and seperated
- 1 cup water chestnut whole or sliced
- 1 cup bean sprout chopped
- 1 cup green onion chopped
- 1 cup carrot thinly sliced
- 1 cup daikon radish; thin sliced or cubed
- 10 cloves garlic one per bag
- 10 rice cake optional; small pieces
- 1 cup noodles optional
- seasoning optional; to taste
- To prepare the abura-age, you'll want to boil them for about 15 minutes on medium-high to remove some of the oil and to soften them. Then, once it's cool (or speed it up by rinsing in cool water using a drainer) squeeze water out as much as you can by hand (watch out for random squirts) and then flatten them out on some paper towels with a rolling pin to press out the water and absorb more of the oil out. Be sure to flatten them out firmly so it'll be easier to open.Make sure they have been boiled properly, too, because the bags will be puffy and harder to open into pouches without having to get a sharp knife and slicing an opening. It also makes it more prone to tearing the sides open. For larger pieces, you'll want to slice them in half, smaller pieces can have just the edge sliced off. Carefully pull the sides apart, "hollowing" them out to form a pocket. For the smaller pieces that you've trimmed the edge on, you can keep the edge you cut off to tie around the pouch but it will still need the toothpick or something to keep it in place. Some suggested edible ties include green onion, kelp or parsley stems, etc.Once the abura-age is prepared, simply stuff your choice of fillings (you may add seasoning, too, if you like) and use the toothpick to close the pouch by weaving it at the opening or tie it with something that is edible, like kelp for example. I usually wrap the strips that were cut from the bags around where the toothpick gets weaved through.If you want, at this point you can either add it to a soup at the beginning of making it, or boil it in water or broth (preferred for flavor) for about 15 minutes (or about 30 for raw meats) on medium-high to make a side dish. When making it into a side dish, be sure to drain excess liquid before serving (or not, if you like it "juicy"). Be sure to gently submerge it often as it cooks. The toothpick will stay firmly in place as long as you aren't too rough with the pouches when you stir or submerge them.
Abura-age is a thin sliced deep fried tofu (soybean curd) and is usually puffy and golden looking when you buy it. It is possible to make this yourself, by using extra firm tofu, cut thin slices and draining it of water by wrapping it with paper towels and having something pressing on it for at least 30 minutes or more. You'd then fry it in oil (peanut or olive oil is fine). There are many YouTube videos that can give more advice on how to do this. If using this in soups, I suggest the types that are brothy or moderate broth thickness. It won't absorb as much flavor in heavy, creamy stews(unless you pre-cook it in broth) and has a greater risk of tearing open, especially in thick, chunky soups. This little dish is also excellent in adding to bento box lunches or regular meals as a side dish. Remember that depending on what's in the bag you'll need to adjust your cooking time accordingly. Raw meats and vegetables will need to be cooked longer, but if it's precooked, it'll not take as long. For eggs, they can be pouched in the bags raw or added when already boiled.