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[Photographs: Chichi Wang]

Tofu cheese? Seems unfathomable that two items as different as tofu and cheese could find common ground. The name "tofu cheese" is actually a Western adaptation. In Japanese, it's called "Tofu no Miso-Zuke," or Tofu Pickled in Miso.

When tofu is pressed dry then fermented in a miso mixture, it tastes nothing like cheese. In texture, however, the resemblance is so uncanny that if you closed your eyes and just focused on the mouthfeel, you might think you're actually eating cheese. The texture is both dense and soft. The taste is wine-y and fermented, reflecting the miso paste in which it has marinated.

In other words, tofu cheese is guaranteed to taste good since miso paste makes a lot of things better and more complex.

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Tofu wrapped in cheesecloth and covered in marinade.

To make tofu cheese: simply press the water out of tofu and then marinate it in a simple mixture of miso paste, sake, and mirin (sweetened rice wine) for at least 12 hours and up to two days. The longer you leave the tofu in the marinade, the saltier it will be.

The texture will depend on what kind of tofu you use. Firm tofu will yield something like a soft cheddar, whereas soft tofu will give you a creamier, Talleggio-like result.

Though you won't be cutting down on your triple crème Brie intake anytime soon, this is a great addition to your tofu repertoire. The recipe requires almost no cooking except for the minute it takes to heat up the miso paste with the sake and mirin. The dish relies on the slow process by which the miso transforms the tofu's texture and flavor. It makes a great protein component to your meal, or anytime snack.

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