One of the most ubiquitous foods in Japan has to be tofu. It’s one of items whose supermarket stock always dwindles; Japanese people really seem to love it. It’s a wonderful food because it’s healthy, provides a bit of protein, and is dirt cheap. With the brand I usually purchase, I can get a two medium-sized tofu blocks for exactly ￥98. During those months where your money might be a little tight, tofu can be an incredibly cheap meal. In my opinion tofu is the tasiest, tastless food I’ve ever eaten. I sometimes add green onions and soy sauce to give it a bit of flavor, though; eating it this way kinda beats eating a massive hunk of nothingness.
So, what is tofu exactly? Tofu is made from soybeans…it seems like almost every food that I’ve been unfamiliar with in Japan has come from soybeans in some way shape or form. Anyhow, tofu is in essence curdled soybean milk, that has been pressed into blocks. I’m guessing that it’s similar to the cheese-making process, but I’ve never tried, so I found this video on making tofu:
While I was learning to make nikujaga, my friend Naomi actually filled me in on some cool tofu knowledge. Did you know that there are actually three types of tofu?
1. Kinutofu,きぬどうふ or きぬとうふ, is actually the softest type of tofu. The word kinu in Japanese actually means silk, which I thought was pretty cool. It sounds so exotic: “No, no, I’m not just having tofu, I’m having Silk Tofu.”
2. Momentofu, もめんどうふ or もめんとうふ, is the tofu that has a medium consistency. It’s a bit firmer than the kinutoufu, but not as firm as our next type. This is actually the type that I eat most often.
3. Yakitofu, やきどうふ or やきとうふ, is firmest of the tofus. This form is actually lightly grilled before packaging, which gives is the firmer consistency. It’s quite easy to recognize this type from the grill marks on the surface of the tofu skin. This form of tofu, from what I understand is great for foods like nabe, oden, and sukyaki because it holds together better.
On a side note, one other related food that I had the privilege of trying in Kyoto was yuba, and yuba tastes quite similar to tofu. The reason it tastes similar is because both are derived from different stages of the same process, but yuba is the soy residue that is collected when you boil soy milk. This soy bean skin is quite tatsty with soy sauce (just like tofu).
When I came to Japan I was only a fair-weather tofu fan, it was okay, but not something that I thought I would eat on a regular basis. My tastes have changed a bit since I’ve been here. I eat tofu almost religiously, and I quite enjoy it.
Do you like tofu? If so, how do you like to prepare it? Which type do you think is best?
P.S.-Usually I say tofu when I speak. But I’ve noticed that sometimes when Japanese people are speaking and they say the word tofu just after the n sound in Japanese, or after a vowel sound, they say doufu. Has anyone else noticed that?