Tofu 豆腐 has become a very popular food in the U.S. but what we get as tofu in our grocery store is far from the good tofu you can enjoy in Japan
. As I mentioned before
some good Japanese companies are producing decent tofu in the U.S., but it is not always easy to get quality tofu. There is a category of tofu which is not pressed to remove excess water. As a result, the tofu is softer and has a more silky texture. These are often called “spooned tofu” or “sukui tofu” 掬い豆腐 or if the tofu is only drained using a a Japanese bamboo basket called “zaru”, it is called “zaru-age tofu” ざる揚げ豆腐 (Although, in the factory, I am sure they do not use a bamboo basket.). Actualy, Tako Grill
does serve this type of home-made tofu. It is usually eaten with a bit of salt (Tako grill serves with pink – ume or plum flavored- and green -green tea flavored- salts). You could buy this type of very soft tofu in a small plastic container in a Japanese grocery store as well. The tofu I used here is soft silken tofu from Kyo-zen-an 京禅庵
. Since it was very soft (softer than usual), I scooped up soft silken tofu using a spoon and served it as “spooned tofu”.
You can use any garnish. The traditional garnish for cold tofu blocks called “hiya-yakko” 冷や奴 consists of dried bonito flakes, chopped scallion, perilla, and nori with grated ginger. I decided to use very small hatchling fish which was boiled in salted water and then dried called “chirimen-jako” 縮緬雑魚 or “jako” じゃこ for short. ”Jako” usually comes frozen in a small (one serving) plastic container. I just sauteed it in a dry frying pan on a low flame to thaw and dry further to make it slightly crispy (5 minutes). You could use oil such as roasted sesame oil and/or bit of mirin and soy sauce to season and make it really crispy and seasoned. This type of seasoned and crispy “jako” is usually mixed into a freshly made rice to make “jako meshi” じゃこ飯 but you could use this type of preparation as a topping for this tofu dish. I also added Japanese Umeboshi flavored seasoning* (“furikake“) and finely chopped, deveined and deseeded, fresh Jalapeno pepper. Instead of straight soy sauce, I poured a small amount of concentrated “mentuyu” めんつゆ or noodle soup from the bottle.
* Among the “frikake”, Japanese rice seasonings, one made from red perilla which was a by-product of making Umeboshi
can be dried or semi dried to make umeboshi flavoured frikake called “yukari”. The one I used is semi-dried yukari which also contains small chunks of crispy pickled (but not dried) plum.