Japanese cuisine and food culture offers an abundance of gastronomical delight with limitless choices in regional and seasonal dishes. Encompassing many traditions passed on from generation to generation and these traditions are also very regional. Developed through political, economic and social changes, the Japanese cuisine is historically much influenced by its neighbour, China. Popularly associated with rice and fish as being the staple dishes, tofu cuisine is also a staple of Japanese diet. Commonly found as little white cubes in miso soups, tofu is a generous ingredient in ‘nabe’, a kind of ‘hotpot’ which is a winter dish.
Tofu is often substituted for meat or eaten in addition to meat and vegetables. It is a valuable source of plant based protein and an essential ingredient in the vegetarian cuisine of Buddhist temples, ‘shojin ryori’
Japanese tofu recipes combines simple preparations, exciting flavours and textures. Above all it is super versatile – a tofu paradise to say the least – prepared and eaten in more ways than one . In this article, I share one such experience and a little historical background to Tofu.
What is Tofu?
“Tofu” or bean curd is food made of soy milk. The soy milk is then pressed into solid white blocks. The ‘solid’ white blocks can be of varying softness – silken, soft, firm or extra firm. Originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the late 8th century, during the Nara period (710-794) by Zen Buddhist monks.
Tofu was historically a luxury food
Tofu was the luxury food of the Shoguns in the early Edo period (1603-1868), and farmers were only allowed to eat on special days. Today, you can enjoy an exquisite meal of tofu, from starter to main course and dessert in a traditional Japanese setting at Yodofu Sagano in Kyoto.
Yodofu Sagano | Arashiyama KYOTO
Yodofu Sagano is tucked away in a quiet part of Arashiyama, within a breath-taking traditional Japanese style garden. The dining experience is one of its kind because you get treated to flute music, tatami mats and cooking at the table. It is a unique, relaxing dining experience, where food is leisurely served by servers in Kimonos.
The tofu “paradise” comes as a set meal, where the main course is “Yodofu.” Yodofu is tofu simmered in a light dashi broth, in a clay-pot right in front of you! There are several other small dishes, about nine of them in small bowls including deep fried tempura vegetables, rice and tsukemono pickles. Dessert and unlimited tea are also included.
A set meal is around 40,000 Yen which may seem pricey for a tofu-based vegetarian meal. You can get absolutely stuffed with dish after dish of tofu prepared in various ways! Moreover, it is the dining experience of having a good, clean meal in a tranquil, un-rushed setting which makes it a worthwhile experience.
How to find Yodofu Sagano
Yodofu Sagano is not an easy place to find because it is tucked away in a quaint part of Arashiyama and it what looks like a private estate. It is on the grounds of Tenryu-ji Temple. You need to go around the corner, past the Shinto statues and you will find the gate to the main entrance.
If you take the address down (below) and have it on google maps, you will find it. Choose the traditional setting over the western one. An indoor experience will give you an authentic feel.
The inner garden is absolutely beautiful, with moss covered grounds, bamboos and trees that provide ample shade. So make time to stroll and enjoy the tranquillity of the garden.
I think you know what my final say is going to be…have this restaurant on your list when you visit Arashiyama, Kyoto.
Have this address on google map so you can find Yodofu Sagano
Yudofu Sagano | 45 Sagatenryuji
Kyoto 616-8385, Kyoto Prefecture.
Tel: +81 758716946
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Happy discovering Kyoto!