2019 NO.26

Tasty Japan: Time to Eat!Tasty Japan: Time to Eat!


Yudofu Kaiseki
Entertaining dishes for enjoying seasonal tastes

Text: Ishizuka Tokie; Photo: Nanzenji Junsei

Tofu is made of soy milk, which is the squeezed juice of soy beans, curdled with nigari, a coagulating agent. The Japanese love the rich and refreshing soy bean fragrance and the smooth texture of the curd. Tofu is also attracting attention these days as a healthy food because it is packed with nutrients such as protein, vitamins and minerals.

Yudofu is a pot dish in which tofu is warmed in hot water with kelp. You eat it with a soy sauce-based dipping sauce and a sprinkling of condiments. Since it is a simple dish, you can fully enjoy the taste of tofu. There are various dipping sauce and condiment preferences, depending on the region and the particular restaurant. For example, some use ponzu (soy sauce blended with citrus juice) for dipping sauce and some use green onions, bonito flakes, or grated daikon radish as condiments.

It originated as a vegetarian dish for Zen monks in training according to Buddhist precepts. In places such as Zen temples around the Nanzen-ji Zen Temple in Kyoto, there are still numerous restaurants where you can enjoy yudofu while viewing the gardens. Since Kyoto is blessed with high quality water, residents have long enjoyed tofu cuisine in harmony with the locally developed Buddhist culture. Unlike Edo (former name for Tokyo) where a variety of seafood was available as a protein source, Kyoto is surrounded by mountains. That may be another reason why tofu has always been treasured in Kyoto.

Kaiseki is a Japanese course meal for entertaining guests and enjoying tea. Yudofu Kaiseki is a meal served in a tea ceremony with yudofu taking center stage along with various tofu dishes such as tofu dengaku with sweet miso paste. A beautiful Japanese garden continuously changes its subtle expressions before you while you take delight in seasonal food full of colors. In such a serene moment, your heart will be filled with tranquility.

When tofu wobbles in hot water, it is ready to eat.

Dengaku is a dish of grilled tofu or konnyaku (konjak; also known as Devil's tongue) on skewers, spread with miso paste.