Mar 2, 2018

A little bit about tofu

Japan is known for its soybean products. I mean, even in the States, soy sauce is almost certainly the Kikkoman brand and seen at every table that serves anything even remotely Japanese. Not only does America think of Japan for its soy, but Japan itself seems to worship it. Every year, third graders at elementary school have to practice reciting about the complexities of this bean from their grammar textbooks. They talk about soy sauce and miso soup, natto, and tofu. They talk about how each product is made and used. It is a pretty versatile bean.

And there are different rankings in quality for most of these things as well. However, as far as soy sauce and miso soup are concerned, this foreigner just doesn't have a refined enough palette to make out the subtleties between a 300 yen bottle of soy sauce and a 2,000 yen plastic sachel of it. I do, however, know tofu and can taste the difference between cheap 29 yen and 500 yen tofu. It is all about preferences when it comes to which one you want to get.

As a vegetarian for most of my adult life, I am very familiar with this lovely block of protein. In high school, I knew exactly where I could find it in the three grocery stores in my hometown. Two different packs, one labeled firm (momen) and one labeled soft (kinu), just under the imported vegetable section. That is it. But a Japanese grocery has about 10 to 30 different brands, each with their own special textures. The more creamy and flavorful you want, the more you are going to have to pay for that melt in your mouth flavor. Or on the other end, if you want meat like firmness, then you will need to pay for the extra effort put into pressing those protein bonds into place. But the best part isn't about the variety of textures, you also have a variety of different tofu and by-products. Fried tofu, tofu skins (yuba), okara, dessert tofu, just to name a few. If you find yourself in a Japanese supermarket, pick yourself up a few different kinds and see what you like. Most tofu can be eaten as is or maybe with a little dash of soy sauce and wasabi to give it some kick.

A little bit about tofu photo

But for the best tofu in Japan, you need to find yourself a tofu shop. Nearly every town I have been to in Japan has at least one tofu shop. A mom and pop type of place that specializes in tofu and often also sells other soy products like tofu ice cream, soy donuts, or tofu puddings.A little bit about tofu photo

This little green tea tofu pudding was bought at a mobile tofu shop during our crafting get together. Delicious!

One of my favorite shops is in the town I taught during my JET experience, Kiryu, Gunma. The name is Soy Story and the owner is amazingly friendly. The shop portion sells tofu and the restaurant focuses on tofu-based dishes and healthy alternatives.

Tofu shops are very easily the best places to visit for vegetarians and they often have restaurants just like Soy Story. Even if you are a full meat eater, tofu can be delicious and worth trying out the different varieties all over Japan.



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too


  • genkidesu

    on Mar 2

    I’d visit Soy Story for the name alone - I love puns and plays on words so I thought that was a clever name!

  • edthethe

    on Mar 2

    @genkidesu such a good name and a good shop! Some names in Japan can be so funny though. There was a cafe called mount spoon , but because of the way it was written out, it looked like mount poon . And from where I'm from that is not a name you want on an eatery

  • genkidesu

    on Mar 2

    @edthethe oh my god that's hilarious (and cringeworthy)...definitely not a name you want on an eatery where i'm from either!