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Tofu is made of curdled soy milk, pressed into blocks in a process similar to making cheese. It is a good source of protein and a staple of Japanese cuisine. Tofu is an especially important ingredient in vegetarian Buddhist temple cuisine (shojin ryori). On its own, fresh tofu has a delicate taste. It is a versatile food that can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.

Some of the most popular tofu products and dishes are as follows:

Tofu Products

Soft Tofu

Soft (or silken) tofu is fresh tofu with a smooth, custard-like consistency. It is often eaten cold as hiyayakko or may be added to sauces and stews such as mabodofu.

Firm Tofu

Firm tofu is also fresh tofu, but it has a much sturdier texture than soft tofu. As a result, it stands up better to cooking.

Deep Fried Tofu (Aburaage and Atsuage)

There are several varieties of deep fried tofu common to Japanese cuisine: Aburaage is thin sheets of tofu which have been fried until light and airy. They can then be used as pouches and stuffed with various fillings (as in inarizushi) or sliced and used as a garnish (as in miso soup or kitsune udon). A thicker variety, known as Atsuage, is like regular tofu with a fried skin. It can be served alone, seasoned with a sauce, or used in soups and stews.

Freeze Dried Tofu (Koyadofu)

Koyadofu is freeze dried tofu that is named after Mount Koya where it is a local specialty and served at the Buddhist temples. It has a light, spongy texture that soaks up whatever sauce or soup it is placed in. Koyadofu is a common dish in vegetarian temple cuisine (shojin ryori).

Fermented Tofu (Tofuyo)

Tofuyo is an Okinawan dish, made of fermented tofu soaked in malted rice and awamori liquor. It has a powerful and pungent flavor, often compared to strong cheese because of its similar taste and texture. Tofuyo can be found at Okinawan restaurants and is served in very small portions usually accompanying alcoholic drinks.

Popular Tofu Dishes

Hiyayakko

Hiyayakko is fresh, chilled tofu (usually soft tofu) commonly garnished with grated ginger, shaved bonito flakes (katsuobushi) and green onions, and seasoned with soy sauce. Pour a little bit of soy sauce over the tofu if it did not come already seasoned.

Yudofu

Yudofu are tofu pieces boiled in a clear, mild soup and dipped into soy sauce or ponzu (lemon-flavored soy sauce) before being eaten. Yudofu is a Kyoto specialty and commonly served during the colder seasons.

Miso Soup

Miso soup is made by dissolving miso paste in dish stock (dashi) and typically served alongside a bowl of cooked rice. Common additions include wakame seaweed, small pieces of tofu and sliced aburaage, but countless other ingredients can be used, as well.

Agedashidofu

Agedashidofu is made of lightly breaded tofu which is deep fried and served hot in a soy sauce broth and commonly garnished with green onions or grated daikon. Agedashidofu can be found in a variety of restaurants and is a common izakaya dish.

Mabodofu

Mabodofu is the Japanese adaptation of a popular Szechuan dish that was brought to Japan by Chen Kenmin, father of Iron Chef Chen Kenichi. It features tofu pieces in a spicy sauce flavored with fermented black beans, minced pork and red chili. It is a menu item of virtually every Chinese restaurant in Japan, but is also commonly found at ramen shops, family restaurants and izakaya.

Hot Pot (Nabe)

Tofu is a common ingredient in hot pot (nabe) dishes such as chanko nabe (the traditional diet of sumo wrestlers) and shabu shabu. Hot pot dishes are mainly served in winter.

Kitsune Udon

Kitsune Udon ("fox udon") is an udon noodle dish that features sweetened pieces of deep fried tofu as topping. The name comes from the belief that deep fried tofu is a favorite food of foxes.
Page last updated: January 25, 2016