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Who's Cooking: Hiroyuki Hamada, E. Hampton

Hiroyuki Hamada with his dish, Crispy Fried Tofu

Hiroyuki Hamada with his dish, Crispy Fried Tofu with Garlic and Scallions, at his home in East Hampton. (March 28, 2012) Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

A sculptor, Hiroyuki Hamada lives in East Hampton with his wife and two young sons.

When did you start cooking? When I was first living on my own, without much money, I started to cook for myself out of necessity. I became interested in what would happen if I combined certain ingredients or if I cooked them using a certain method. I still like to do that -- try something new.

Do you cook with your kids? Sometimes, I'll ask them to mix this or get that, to keep them busy. But I have to say that cooking alone has a meditative aspect that I like. It's fun to have company in the kitchen, but I also just like to work by myself.

What is your thinking on this tofu recipe? Tofu goes well with a lot of scallions and garlic, especially when the scallions are cooked a good amount of time to bring out their sweetness. It's just a few ingredients, but when cooked together some sort of chemical reaction happens that makes them more than the sum of their parts. I like when that happens easily. That's a basic rule: It has to be easy, fun and tasty.

Are there other things you do with tofu? I ate tofu in Japan when I was growing up, but I wasn't too crazy about it. When I came to the States, I noticed tofu tastes better here . . . processed without chemicals. I like to just cut it up and eat it with a little soy sauce.

Do your kids like it? My older son will eat Crispy Fried Tofu. The younger likes his tofu plain.

Crispy Fried Tofu with Garlic and Scallions

Hiroyuki sometimes replaces the scallions with leeks, which have more texture and are a little sweeter. To achieve delicious crispiness, be patient and adjust the heat as necessary so it browns without burning.

One 14-ounce block firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
11/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch scallions, cut in half lengthwise and then chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 to 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt

1. Cut block of tofu lengthwise into three pieces. Sandwich tofu pieces between clean kitchen towels, one on top of the other, and then put a plate on the pile and set aside to allow towels to soak up excess moisture. When tofu is dry, cut each piece into 4 or 6 smaller pieces.

2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute scallions and garlic with a pinch of salt until golden. Transfer to a bowl.

3. Arrange tofu pieces in pan to form one big, continuous sheet. Make sure no garlic or scallion comes between pan and tofu. Spread scallions and garlic over tofu sheet. Cook until bottom of tofu is nice and crispy, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Carefully, push garlic and tofu to side of pan. Flip tofu pieces and arrange them into a big sheet again. If they are stuck to each other, take them apart before flipping. Put scallions and garlic on top of tofu again and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes.

5. Transfer tofu, with scallions and garlic, to a serving dish. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.

Makes 2 servings

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