Looking for a few new ways to enjoy your tofu blocks maybe in some Japanese dishes? In this blog, we’re going to be talking about five, maybe even a couple more than that, ways that you can enjoy your tofu in a few simple and tasty Japanese-style dishes.
Tofu and transitioning from “SAD” diet
Oftentimes, simple ingredients get overlooked by food covered in gold leaf, foie gras, flambe, Crepe Suzette flambe, maybe a sushi deluxe dinner, or whatever fancy food or ingredients you would love to eat and enjoy.
As an advocate for plant-based Japanese food and cooking tofu is one of my favorite ingredients to use. It’s one of the many plant-based food that can help you stay full and satisfied and be used in a variety of different ways, making it extremely versatile.
And did you know? It’s also a complete protein with many vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fiber, which is important for certain things like going “unchi.
If you’re having trouble going “unchi,” you might want to try eating a few more plant-based foods, especially vegetables because those are gonna be your main sources of dietary fiber, which will be very effective in helping you go “unchi” successfully.
Tofu is one of those things that has actually helped me transition away from the standard American diet also known as the “SAD Diet.” If you never heard that one before, it might be worth looking into. And the reason being it’s very very useful in a variety of different dishes.
Cold Tofu and Japanese dishes
Cold tofu dishes are going to be perfect for the warm summer weather that is just around the corner. And if you’re reading this in the off-season, you can enjoy it in maybe a sauna, or with the heater on as well. Equally effective, I think, but I’m just kidding.
Tofu is one of those things that I actually eat and cook on a regular basis. Sometimes, I make it too. And if you haven’t tried making it, maybe you’d be interested in my tofu workshop where I teach you how to make Japanese-style tofu, as well as using the “okara.”
If you ever spent time traveling in Japan you know that one of the things that are pretty obvious there in terms of the restaurant or the food scene is that there’s a lot of specialized restaurants. Meaning that these restaurants only serve really one type of dish.
An example is the tofu restaurants as I mentioned. There’s also sushi bar that serves nothing but sushi. Maybe things like unagi which those restaurants serve nothing, but unagi, yakitori shops, which serve nothing but yakitori, and so on. Because these shops are specialized, obviously they’re gonna be serving really good food. These types of restaurants are called “shinise” in Japanese, which means it’s a very old shop.
So, they’ve been in business for a while because they’re good at what they do, and they’ve passed on the tradition through generations.
Definitely worth looking into for your next trip.
1. Hiyayakko (cold tofu)
There’s a variety of different ways that you can enjoy Hiyayakko. The simplest is just gonna be with a little bit of “shoyu” (soy sauce), some freshly grated ginger, and some freshly grated wasabi. Maybe some “shichimi”, which is a seven flavored pepper.
Some of my other favorites are with a little bit of salt, a little bit of sesame oil, as well as some freshly chopped green onion, called “negi shio”.
You can take that up a step further in terms of the complexity and the flavor profile by using “shio koji” which is fermented rice grains that have been salted and fermented. It has a very nice flavor when it’s added to any kind of food. It’s gonna enhance the flavor of the tofu.
2. Tofu in Salad
There are many different ways that you can enjoy it in a salad. You can just enjoy it straight. Make sure to consider draining the excess water out of your tofu or pressing it using a tofu press and marinate it in “Kombu Dashi”.
You can just throw it on your salad as a way to really bring up the nutritional value so that you get a little bit more protein in your salad. It’s a little bit more filling because usually if it’s just gonna be leaves without any kind of protein, you’re probably gonna get hungry after eating it.
If you can take the salad idea one more step further, and use it for something like “Shira-ae,” which is usually blanched vegetables that have been mixed with a mashed-up tofu that has been seasoned with “shoyu” (soy sauce), or dashi, as well as other ingredients, and it makes it a very, very refreshing side dish or “Okazu.”
And on top of that, what you can also do is use your tofu as dressing.
Tofu makes a great dressing when pureed, as well as a plant-based or tofu mayonnaise. If you’ve never tried that, that’s another one worth considering.
Tofu in dressing is a good way to thicken up a dressing, add some textures and body, as well as a gentle umami creamy texture. If you process it, you can get a really creamy texture. For super creamy and super-smooth, put it in a Vitamix!
3. Tofu in soup
One of the most popular soups in Japan is potaju (potage). It is one of my favorite ways to enjoy tofu in soup. Depending on what you’re putting into the soup, you can use potatoes, you can put kabocha, or maybe even like edamame or mushrooms rice, onions, there’s a lot of different things you can throw in there, carrots.
Tofu is a great way to thicken it up, add some body, add a little bit of slight sweetness, especially if you’re going to be using homemade tofu.
4. Tofu as topping for noodles
The fourth way is going to be in your noodles. Something like cold spaghetti or cold pasta salad. You can actually put it also on “soba,” maybe as a topping, maybe some “daikon” radish sprouts or “nori.” It goes great with cold soba noodles. Or you can also cut it up into little pieces and marinate it or cook it lightly.
5. Tofu as filling for sushi
Pan-fry tofu on the stove with a little bit of sesame oil, roll it up in sushi with some shiso leaves, and some kimchi for sort of a fusion sushi roll or “Temaki sushi,” which is really delicious, by the way.
6. Tofu in dessert
Some of my favorite ways to enjoy tofu in the sweet side of things is gonna be in pudding. “Mitarashi tofu” pudding is one of my favorite Japanese-style puddings. It is basically a soy sauce sweetened dessert. If you didn’t know, soy sauce is actually used in a variety of different sweets.
“Mitarashi Dango” is another one, basically those little round balls that have a sweetened soy sauce glaze on it–very delicious. This is gonna be the pudding version made with tofu, of course.
Konnichiwa! (Hello!) I'm Pat Tokuyama, a Japanese tofu cookbook author, who travels for music, food, and adventure. If you like Japanese tea, checkout some of the newestorganic japanese teas now in stock!!
** Curious about the Plant Based Japanese Cooking Club? ** Learn more here!
7. Tofu Cheesecakes
Tofu cheesecake, if you’ve never tried that before, actually might take you a few times to get the combination right in terms of the ratios of the ingredients used. It took me a few times at least and it’s quite amazing. It’s probably one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had because it’s a little bit on the lighter side but it’s just as creamy, just as rich, and just as dense as a normal cheesecake But Japanese-style cheesecake is one of my favorites especially when it’s made with tofu, and topped with a delicious glaze like “matcha mitsu,” “kuromitsu.”
Or even like a Yuzu-based glaze very, very, very tasty. “Oishii sou.”
Hopefully, one of these seven ideas for you enjoying your tofu Japanese-style is one that you’ll give a try if you haven’t already. If I missed anything, feel free to share your favorites in the comments below. I’d be curious to see what you guys are doing with tofu Japanese-style and cold tofu.
Maybe next time we’ll be talking about how to enjoy tofu the hot way. “Atsui Atsui uchi ni dozo.” That means try to enjoy while it’s hot.
Which one of these tofu dishes have you already tried? Leave your comment below or any feedback.
2 thoughts on “Japanese tofu recipes | 7 delicious ways to enjoy cold tofu”
Great post, Pat!
I use tofu in salads all the time. I also top rice or rice noodles with tofu and make desserts with it. But I’ve never used it to make dressings – that’s a great idea!
thank you Dolly! hope youre doing well 😉