Even though I’m not a vegetarian, I’m like most Asians in that my love affair with tofu dates back to around age two and, unlike some “past” marriages, my love for tofu is still going strong. This blog is going to be all about tofu in every form, so if you don’t like this heavenly form of soy, you can skip it.
There are several restaurants in Japan that serve a meal consisting of several different kinds of tofu, and Kawakaze is one of them. The restaurant is in Asakusa. From an attempt to find a place that served fresh “yuba”, I found Kawakaze. Wait, so what’s “yuba”?
If you think of soy milk as regular milk then yuba is the crème de la crème. Soy milk and cow’s milk tend to behave in the same manner. Once you heat it up, you get a thick film on the surface and with soy that’s yuba.
Once the film is thick enough it can be picked up, folded and ready to eat.
Normally just a dash of soy sauce would be enough for the seasoning, but fresh yuba served at a restaurant would be accompanied by fresh grated wasabi from real wasabi root and green onion. That enhances the texture and flavor of yuba.
Some places serve it with katsuo-bushi, too. In Japan (and sadly ONLY in Japan) you can find pre-packaged yuba in supermarket and some convenience stores, but the fresh one that’s still warm is even better.
We found this little restaurant hidden near a boutique hotel in Asakusa, purely by chance. I had no idea that this place was listed as one of only four tofu-exclusive restaurants that were recommended as must-try places. The entrance on the ground level is only a door that leads down to an underground restaurant. It looks like nothing but we saw the menu that was posted outside with a picture of fresh yuba just lifed from a pot of soy milk. That’s how we knew that this place served it.
It was lunchtime on a Saturday that had been announced as peak viewing for the Sakura blossoms, so the restaurant wasn’t crowded at all. We ordered the tofu course with yuba and we were surprised by the whole pot of soy milk on the table. Whoa la…this was my first time not only eating freshly made yuba or, just to be precise, waiting for it to be made right in front of me.
In the meantime, the salad with raw tuna had been served while we were waiting for the soy milk to be hot, as we manually fanned the top surface of the soy milk with a little fan–it seems like yuba wil form easier if the surface is cooler than the hot soy milk.
My sister and I would take turns to fanning the pot, then picking up the yuba, which yields only one bite in about 2-3 minutes!
They served other dishes to complete the course: fresh-made soft tofu, silky soft tofu that comes in the same pot of hot soy milk that we were using to make yuba,
a set of vegetable and shrimp tempura (so good they were gone before I remember that I have a camera), takikomi gohan (flavored rice) with bamboo shoots, miso soup, sunemono (pickled vegetables) and green tea ice cream.
It such a big feast but everything is so delicious we didn’t want to stop eating even though we were beyond full by the end.
Tofu-Kawakaze.com (You can make reservation through opentable right on their website but there is no English on their site as of 7/7/12)
B1 (Basement Floor), 3-34-11 Asakusa, Taito Ward, Tokyo
+81-3-3876-7711 (03-3876-7711 from inside Japan)
Weekdays and Saturday
17:00 to 22:00
Sunday and public holidays
17:00 to 21:00
Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays
11:30 to 14:00
* Lunch time on weekdays, will be received at the reservations of more than 10 people.
Tofu set with fresh yuba is strongly recommended but all other items are so good here. This restaurant is run by Hamasei, one of the best Kaiseki Ryouri Restaurants in Japan.