Updated: December 20, 2018
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A Guide To The Types Of Japanese Tofu

Tofu is an important part of Japanese cuisine, and in Japan, there are many varieties to be found. Here is a guide on the various types of Japanese tofu and how they are used.

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Kinu 絹

Kinu (絹) in Japanese means silk and in English, this kind of tofu is often called silken or soft. It has a high water content because the tofu is not pressed. The coagulant agent is added to the soy milk when the milk is still hot, which is another difference from the hard type of tofu we'll introduce next.

The texture is smooth and it is often eaten as is in Japan with just the addition of a few condiments. Served cold, kinu tofu is called hiyayakko (冷奴). Common toppings include ginger, leak, bonito fish flakes and soy sauce.

Momen 木綿

Momen (木綿) in Japanese translates to cotton in English and is usually known as the firm kind of tofu. This tofu is denser than the kinu because it is pressed to extract the water content. For that reason, this tofu has a coarser texture and is richer in nutrients than the kinu.

Because it is firmer, it is a good choice of tofu for any kind of cuisine that involves stirring. It can also be used to make tofu steak and is also usually used to make deep-fried tofu. Momen tofu can also be eaten as is, even though kinu tends to be the more popular choice for that.

Atsuage 厚揚げ

The word atsuage (厚揚げ) in Japanese is a combination of the character for "thick" and "deep fried", hence this kind of tofu is made by deep-frying thick piece of momen tofu. The result is tofu that has a soft inside and a golden brown firm outer crust.

Because it is deep-fried, this kind of tofu is richer than momen tofu, so it can be used to hearty-up a dish. Atsuage is often used in soups and as an ingredient for nimono (煮物), which are Japanese-style stews.

Aburaage 油揚げ

Aburaage (油揚げ) means deep-fried in oil, so this kind of tofu is -you've guessed it- also deep-fried. The difference with Atsuage is that the slices are thinner and is deep-fried a longer time so the end result is tofu that is made up entirely of the deep-fried crust.

This kind of tofu can be made into pockets and stuffed with various ingredients. Aburaage is perhaps most well-known as the pocket for inarizushi, a kind of sushi that is often eaten at picnics during the cherry blossom season.

Yudofu 湯豆腐

Yudofu (湯豆腐) means tofu in hot water, and generally refers to large cubes of tofu boiled in a simple savoury soup. Traditionally the soup is made with kombu seaweed. The white powder on the kombu is what gives the umami to the soup and blends perfectly with the tofu. To give extra taste, it's common to add some yuzu (柚子) which is a kind of Japanese citrus, ponzu (ポン酢) a savoury sauce made from yuzu, or some soy sauce.

Yuba 湯葉

Yuba (湯葉) in Japanese is a combination of the word "hot water" and "leaf", and it refers to the process by which its made, which consists of boiling soy milk until thin layers of skin forms on top of the liquid. Yuba is also called tofu skin in English.

Yuba is often rolled into thick pieces and eaten as is or used as an ingredient for suimono (吸い物), which is a Japanese-style soup. Yuba is a quintessential ingredient of shojin ryori (精進料理), the traditional Buddhist cuisine of Japan. You are most likely to find yuba in Kyoto, where shojin ryori is an important part of the food culture.

Gomadofu 胡麻豆腐

Gomadofu (胡麻豆腐) literally means sesame tofu, and unlike all the other kinds of tofu introduced here, this is the only one that is not made from soybeans. The raw ingredients used to make gomadofu are sesame seed powder mixed with arrowroot flour.

Gomadofu is also part of shojin ryori. Traditionally, in order to get a gomadofu with a smooth texture, the shell of every sesame seed had to be removed before crushing the seeds into a powder. This took tremendous practice and was part of the Buddhist monks' ascetic practices.

Gomadofu, is often eaten as is with just some simple condiments. You can add sesame oil to it to further bring out the nutty taste of the sesame.
Japanese food culture enthusiast. Love to explore new areas and discover local specialties.

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