|A Light, Tasty Flavor and a Savory Fragrance
Until the mid-19th century in Japan, religion generally prohibited the eating of meat. Tofu is called "meat from the fields" because it is made from soybeans and is high in protein. For centuries, tofu has been a very important food in Japan, not only because of religion but also for health reasons.
Even today, tofu appears in many dishes, for example, miso soup and nabemono (a meal served in a pot). Two other ways to eat tofu are as hiyayakko (chilled tofu) and yudofu (boiled tofu). Or you can flavor it with a little soy sauce and eat it just as it is.
An all-tofu cookbook called Tofu Hyakuchin was published in 1782. The book featured about 100 tofu dishes and became so popular that it was quickly followed by a second edition.
Tofu is cheap, and almost everyone likes it. It is even good for babies when they are being weaned, and for sick people. Tofu is very versatile, and can be served at any time of the year and on any occasion, whether a festival or a funeral.
Tofu is becoming popular in the West too, as it is high in protein, low in calories, and contains no cholesterol. Some restaurants in the United States serve tofu steak and small tofu cubes in miso soup.
On these pages we will present our recipe for a simple dish called agedashi-dofu (deep-fried tofu served with a soy-sauce based sauce). You can taste the light flavor of the tofu, but this dish has a special fragrance as well, because the tofu has been deep-fried in oil. The sauce adds taste. The tofu has a marvelous texture, crisp on the outside, soft inside. The recipe appears in the ancient cookbook mentioned above, and the people of Edo (present-day Tokyo) were very fond of this dish. Until World War II, a famous restaurant near Ueno Shinobazu-no-ike Pond in Tokyo served agedashi-dofu to many customers, starting early in the morning.
In Tofu Hyakuchin, we read that we need only drain the water from the tofu before deep-frying it, and our chef follows these instructions. But nowadays the tofu is generally first coated with cornstarch or flour. Use flour if you want a crisper effect. Firm tofu is easier to handle, but silken tofu has a smoother, more satisfying texture because of the higher water content.
The tofu is sufficiently fried when it is golden brown and rises to the surface of the oil. If the oil is not hot enough, the tofu will not be crisp. Garnish with grated daikon radish and chopped green onions or, if you use soy sauce instead, put on some grated ginger and the white part of a green onion stalk, thinly sliced. Add cayenne pepper to taste, if you like.
This meal was prepared by Koyama Hirohisa, the owner of an elite restaurant called Aoyagi. One of Japan's best chefs, he founded the Heisei Academy of Cuisine. Koyama is active on the international gastronomic stage as well, giving lessons in Japanese cooking at top hotels in a number of countries, and at a prestigious school for French cuisine in Paris.
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