Wonderfully wobbly and packed full of protein, tofu is Japan’s multifaceted bean curd, a beloved soybean product that is transformed into blocks and blobs. Tofu-making techniques were introduced from China during the Nara period, and its safe to say that Japan has never looked back. Surprisingly diverse but commonly used throughout Japanese cuisine, tofu can be served either hot or cold with endless cooking styles and flavor variations. Silky soft or firm to touch, pale tofu alone is seemingly bland, but it’s easily jazzed up: warm it through in miso soup or a nabe hot pot, have it semi-sweet and wrapped around inarizushi, or enjoy it deep-fried as agedashidofu at an izakaya pub. Tofu serves as an integral ingredient that’s part of the everyday Japanese diet, not to mention being key in the Japanese Buddhist cuisine, shojin ryori.
Full of amino acids, iron, and calcium, tofu makes a great meat replacement that’s cheap as chips. In the classic Japanese mentality of waste-not-want-not, Japanese cuisine also utilizes tofu byproducts like yuba (tofu skin) and okara (tofu “lees”). Used in regional specialties around Japan, have it boiled as yudofu for winter in Kyoto, or as spicy Szechuan-style mabodofu. And for the brave, pungent fermented tofu is a delicacy served in Okinawa. For a more conventional tofu encounter, try your hand cooking with tofu at a vegetarian cooking class or taste tofu during a vegan food tour. Explore the possibilities of tofu during one of our food experiences; you’ll be surprised by how Japan has incorporated tofu in the most creative ways. Tofu donuts, anyone?