Sushi may well be Japan's best-known and best-loved food import globally, but very popular in Japan yet underrated elsewhere is tofu! Of course, tofu is not solely a Japanese food and is found in most Asian cuisines, but it is a very versatile and essential ingredient in households and restaurants in Japan. Tofu is popular year-round, but is thought to be the best in the winter months as the soybean harvesting season comes to an end.
As it is made primarily from soybeans, tofu is quite healthy and an excellent source of protein. In Japan, tofu is not solely eaten as a health food or thought of as a meat-substitute as it often is in the U.S. Tofu comes in many different varieties, from silken to soft to extra firm, from freeze dried to deep fried and more. An incredible range of dishes are made with tofu, either as the starring item or as a complementary ingredient.
Yudofu is a Kyoto-specialty that is made with soft tofu pieces gently simmered in kombu-flavored dashi broth, and eaten with deliciously complimentary condiments like sliced scallion and grated wasabi soy sauce or tangy ponzu citrus dressing. Yudofu was traditionally eaten by Buddhist monks in temples during the winter months.
Agedashidofu is a popular Japanese tofu dish, available year round but particularly popular during winter. It is deep-fried slices of tofu served in a hot soy broth, topped with green onion and grated daikon.
Other popular Japanese winter dishes featuring tofu include:
Kitsune Udon - udon topped with slices of seasoned fried tofu
Sukiyaki - Japanese hot pot typically with thin slices of meat, veggies, tofu and more
Oden - A very popular and classic Japanese comfort food - soup made with dashi broth, fish cake, radish, konjac, boiled egg, and often tofu. Tofu comes in a few varieties in oden, but all are fantastic as the tofu soaks up the flavor of the delicious broth.
Tofu is often underrated outside of Japanese and other Asian cuisine, but we hope more people try and enjoy it. Healthy, full of protein, and made in such a wide range of types and delicious dishes - tofu is a food star in its own right!