Gallery: My Favorite Japanese Meal: Yudofu, or 'Hot Water Tofu'

  • Simmered tofu

    Simmered tofu

    Blocks of freshly made silken tofu come served in a heavy aluminum pot willed with hot water seasoned with a strip of konbu. It's not enough to heavily flavor the soup, but just enough to add a thin sheen of savoriness to the blocks of tender tofu. A thin veil of yuba—the skin that forms on top of a pot of soy milk as it gets heated—covers the tofu, helping to retain heat as you fish out pieces one by one with a specially-designed wire mesh spoon.

    Hot Tea

    An essential part to any Japanese meal, hot tea (usually oolong or green) is served in tiny cups.

    Sauce and Seasoning

    The first trip for the tofu is to a small bowl of a thin soy-based sauce. Salty, savory, and ever-so-slightly sweet.

    Add the Seasoning

    Grated ginger, crushed toasted sesame seeds, and thinly sliced scallions are common aromatics.

    Red Rice

    Actually a combination of normal white short-grain rice and black or purple "forbidden rice" are cooked together to form a pale red. It gets served on the side along with a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

    Yuba

    Fresh yuba is nearly impossible to find in the U.S.—most of the stuff we get here is dried—but it's a treat worth seeking out. Rolled into tight cylinders and sliced into disks, it's got a slightly more assertive flavor than the tofu.

    Mochi

    Made from pounded glutinous rice, flavored mochi is served skewered and broiled with a coat of sweetened miso paste.

    Pickles

    Rice always comes served with sunomono, a variety of fresh Japanese pickle. In Kyoto, the specialty is made with slender Japanese eggplant that's salted and pressed with plenty of purple shiso. Salty and crunchy with a mild, minty aroma from the shiso leaf, you've got to down it in tiny little bites, but it's addictive nonetheless.