With fall in full force, you can feel the chill on the surface of your skin this season. To keep warm, we all start craving different steamy, nabe dishes. One such example being Simmered Tofu.

Tofu is an indispensable staple of Japanese cuisine and a much-needed source of protein in our diets. Tofu dates all the way back to the 2nd Century in China, where it has spread and spread, becoming an ingredient many people are now familiar with. Tofu allegedly reached Japan during the Kamakura Period, and gained attention along with the development of vegetarian cuisine. In the Edo Period, tofu saw use in a wide variety of dishes, and a recipe book called Tofu Hyakuchin was even published.

In the grocery store, you will typically find two varieties of tofu available: silken and momen. It is not the beans used that make these two different, however, but rather the way they are produced. Silken tofu has a high water-content, while momen tofu has a majority of its water-content removed with cloth. Because of this, silken tofu has a pleasant silky sheen to it, while momen tofu has a firmer texture and more pronounced flavor. You can use either to make Simmered Tofu, but using silken tofu will result in the more delicious outcome.

Simmered Tofu is more delicious the simpler its preparation is. First, you will put water in your nabe hot pot, and add konbu kelp to season the broth. After about an hour when the konbu becomes tender, you add bite-sized pieces of silken tofu and put it over the eat, bringing it to a gentle simmer. The important trick at this step is to not allow the water to come to a full boil. If you boil it, the tofu will lose its aroma. You’ll know your tofu is ready when it is slightly wobbly in texture. If you like your tofu more tender, you can add a pinch of salt and sliced daikon to the nabe. At Ureshino Onsen of Saga Prefecture, you can enjoy “Onsen Tofu,” which is a fun Simmered Tofu dish using the water of the natural hot springs.

After plating the warm tofu, you can season it with broth, soy sauce, sake, mirin, or whatever you’d like. The most common garnish is chopped leek with bonito fish flakes. You might want to pile the garnishes high, but in this case, less is more, and will allow you to appreciate the natural flavor of the tofu itself.   Kyoto is actually famed for its Simmered Tofu. Within Kyoto, there are many restaurants offering Simmered Tofu, particularly in Higashiyama Hizenji Temple and Arashiyama Sagano. As expected, high-quality water is necessary to create the best Simmered Tofu.

This is a healthy, affordable dish that I would recommend everybody try making tonight.

Source: Tokyo College of Sushi and Washoku: The College Headmaster’s One-Dish Course Series.


Photo source: Tokyo College of Sushi and Washoku: The College Headmaster’s One-Dish Course Series.