Aburaage (油揚げ abura-age or aburage) is a Japanese food product made from soybeans. It is produced by cutting tofu into thin slices and deep frying first at 110~120 °C then at 180~200 °C again. Abura-age is often used to wrap inari-zushi (稲荷寿司), and is added to miso soup. It is also added to udon noodle dishes which are called kitsune-udon because of legends that foxes (kitsune) like deep-fried tofu. Aburaage can also be stuffed e.g. with nattō before frying again. There is a thicker variety known as atsu-age (厚揚げ) or nama-age (生揚げ).
The Japanese were the first to develop tofu pouches. However, little is known of their early history. The Tofu Hyakuchin of 1782 (Abe 1972) gave a recipe for deep-fried tofu, but it is not clear if it puffed up like a tofu pouch. It is known that tofu pouches existed by 1853, when Inari-zushi (tofu pouch filled with vinegared rice) originated (Ichiyama 1968). Because of their long storage life, light weight, and complexity of production, tofu pouches lend themselves to large-scale factory production and widespread distribution. By 1974 large factories were using 2 metric tons of soybeans a day to make 116,600 tofu pouches. By 1980 huge modern factories produced 300,000 to 450,000 pouches a day using conveyorized deep-fryers. At this time roughly one third of the soybeans consumed for tofu in Japan were for deep-fried tofu and an estimated 85% of this was for tofu pouches.
In Japanese mythology abura-age is the favorite food of Kitsune and Inari.
- Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha Limited, Tokyo 1991, ISBN 4-7674-2015-6