For a vegetarian katsudon as satisfying as its pork counterpart, use tofu. A marinade of soy sauce, mirin, and garlic injects it with flavor. Breaded and deep-fried, the tofu’s soft, creamy interior contrasts with the crunchy panko crust.
But if you prefer a meatier bite, freeze and defrost your tofu before marinating. This step causes the tofu’s water to expand and solidify into tiny ice crystals. When these crystals melt away, they leave behind sponge-like holes that give the tofu a firm, meat-like texture. The holes help soak up and more marinade too, resulting in extra flavor.
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin or rice vinegar
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 300g block firm tofu, carefully dried (see Notes) and sliced in 2
- neutral oil, for deep frying
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ cup dashi stock, vegetable stock, or water
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 4 tsp mirin or rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp oil
- half a medium onion, sliced
- 2 eggs, beaten in two separate bowls
- cooked rice
- chopped spring onions, for garnish
- sesame seeds, for garnish
Combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, and garlic powder in a tray or bowl big enough to hold your tofu.
Place your tofu in the marinade. If using frozen and thawed tofu, marinate for 1–2 minutes. Otherwise, marinate for as long as 15 minutes while you prepare your frying setup.
Add oil to a wok or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Heat oil to 370°F.
While the oil heats up, prepare your breading station: Combine flour, cornstarch, and salt. Divide flour mixture, eggs, and bread crumbs between three baking dishes or trays.
Take the marinated tofu and gently squeeze out any excess marinade. Coat the tofu in the flour mixture. Next, transfer it into the eggs, letting any excess drip off. Gently press into the bread crumbs, making sure all sides are evenly coated. Place on a large plate and repeat with the second block of tofu.
Check if your oil has reached 370°F. To check without a thermometer, drop some bread crumbs into the oil—if it sizzles, you’re ready to fry.
Line a large plate with paper towels. Carefully lower the breaded tofu into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown on all sides, flipping with tongs if necessary, about 2–3 minutes. Transfer to the lined plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
Once cool enough to handle, transfer the tofu to a cutting board and slice into half-inch pieces.
Make the katsudon sauce: Combine vegetable stock or water, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar in a measuring cup or bowl.
Add oil to a small skillet over medium heat. Add sliced onions, cooking until translucent. Pour the sauce mixture and cook until the onions are soft.
Slide one block of sliced tofu katsudon onto the center of the pan. Pour one beaten egg around the pan. Cover and cook until the egg is slightly set, about a minute.
To serve, slide the katsudon from the skillet onto a bowl of cooked rice. Garnish with spring onions and sesame seeds.
For flavorful tofu with a meat-like texture, freeze the tofu overnight. The next morning, let it thaw in the fridge (it will take a day to defrost) or at room temperature. To speed things up, thaw the tofu in the microwave. The liquid in the tofu expands when frozen, resulting in big holes once thawed and drained. This gives the tofu a firm, spongy, meat-like bite.
Other methods of drying tofu work too—press it between paper towels, microwave it, or pour hot salted water over it. Your tofu will maintain a soft and creamy texture.
Dashi can be purchased at any Japanese grocery store.
Dashi or vegetable stock can be substituted with chicken stock.