Taste of Japan

The Virtues of Tofu: A Low-Calorie, Healthy and Nutritious Food

Tofu, a familiar food in Japan, is also popular around the world

The main ingredient of tofu is soybeans. There are many Japanese dishes you can make with tofu. It can be put in miso soup, served cold with grated ginger and chopped spring onions (hiyayakko), or served hot, simmered in kelp stock (yudofu). Tofu can be cooked in different ways to make foods like aburaage, a deep-fried thinly sliced tofu, and ganmodoki, a deep-fried tofu mixed with chopped vegetables. The by-products of tofu, including soymilk and okara, the soy pulp left over after making tofu, are also consumed widely in Japan.
Tofu is a rich source of protein that is believed to support health by preventing arteriosclerosis and lowering blood cholesterol levels. The nutritious, low-calorie, plant-based nature of tofu, made mainly from soybeans, makes it a suitable food for people on a diet and vegetarians. Tofu is a word that has become universally known. It is now a food that is consumed widely around the world.

A wide variety of tofu dishes as part of a healthy diet

Shojin ryori, is a type of plant-based cuisine using only vegetables and beans. It is prepared without animal ingredients such as meat and fish. The origins of shojin ryori are said to be in the traditional dining styles of Buddhist monks, who were prohibited from killing animals. For them, tofu was a valuable source of protein that was alternative to meat.
The rich amount of protein in tofu helps reduce blood pressure. Tofu also contains a great amount of other nutrients that are likely to be beneficial to health and beauty: linoleic acid that prevents arteriosclerosis; saponin, an age-defying component that prevents lifestyle diseases; isoflavone that mimics the effects of a female hormone; and vitamins that help create beautiful skin. The nutrients in tofu are even believed to influence longevity, because people in areas known for their high consumption of tofu often enjoy long lives.
Tofu is extremely versatile. For example, you can use it as an alternative to meat when preparing Salisbury steak, use it in curry, or make a paste to prepare a bechamel sauce. It is also possible to use tofu to make sweets. Turning it into mochi by adding starch and sugar, or mixing it into chocolate-flavored batter to make a chocolate cake, are some examples.
In this edition, we feature two Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores that actively incorporate healthy tofu and other foods from Japan into their repertoires. One in France and the other in Singapore.

France BENTOMANIA Making people aware of the virtues of tofu

When thinking of Japanese cuisine, sushi and tempura are typical dishes that French people think of. While there are numerous Japanese restaurants in Paris and Lyon, where Bentomania is located, the number of chefs with extensive knowledge of tofu still appears to be limited.
Mr. Anh PHAM opened Bentomania in 2016. At lunch time, takeout lunches are sold in bento boxes for people who work in the neighborhood. At night, it opens its door as an izakaya restaurant for tourists and locals to dine in casually. The average person will spend about 10 to 15 Euros at lunch, and around 30 Euros in the evening. The majority of customers are young, often under 40, or vegetarian.
Mr. Anh PHAM’s grandmother was originally from Okinawa. When he was young, he went to school carrying a bento lunch she had prepared for him. Before establishing Bentomania, he had always dreamed of opening a place reminiscent of a Japanese bento shop one day. The word ‘mania’ included in the restaurant's name means ‘addictive’ in Latin. He chose the word hoping the short name would be easy for French people to remember.
The menu includes a variety of dishes including okonomiyaki, yakitori, and gyoza. Mr. Anh PHAM said, “Bento containing tofu and miso soup are becoming popular among vegetarians. It is said that French people dislike tofu due to the absence of flavor. Nevertheless, a growing number of people have been turning their backs on beef and lamb in recent years, and considering tofu to be a better source of quality protein. I just have to be creative with cooking to allow them to enjoy well-seasoned tofu. For example, I serve tofu with sauces, or even marinate it.”
Some customers are not familiar with tofu or its main ingredient, soybeans. Mr. Anh PHAM actively explains each time he serves a tofu dish to make them aware of the virtues of tofu.

Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Store
・Store name: Bentomania
・Store URL  https://www.bentomania.fr/
・Tel: +33-9-51-54-36-02 (moving to a new location in February 2021)

Singapore Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai An Okinawan diner serving shimadofu with a distinctive flavor

Mr. Uchima began working for the Okinawan diner NIRAI-KANAI in 2012, and took charge of the business in 2014. Prior to his tenure at the diner, he worked for a Japanese restaurant in Tokyo. In explaining why he relocated to Singapore, he said, “Because one of my friends in the same class at the Okinawa College of Cooking told me about the opportunity. While there were a number of Japanese restaurants in Singapore at the time, there were only two Okinawan restaurants. I am Okinawan, so I naturally wanted to make Singaporeans aware of Okinawan cuisine.”
The diner is conveniently located within the Great World Shopping Center, and it is only ten minutes by car from the Takashimaya and Isetan department stores on Orchard Road. This shopping center is located in a residential area, and locals often visit it to shop and dine. Chinese Singaporeans are about 70 percent of the customers. The rest are Indian Singaporeans, Japanese living in the country, and people of other nationalities.
People in Singapore eat out frequently because of the high number of two-income families. It is not unusual for them to have three meals a day, including breakfast, away from home. Children often eat at their grandparents’ places, while their parents eat out. Many families hire maids, and they sometimes enjoy eating out together.
While Okinawan dishes such as chanpuru (stir fry dish) and taco rice, dominate the menu, there are also a variety of other dishes, including grilled Atka mackerel, grilled squid, deep-fried cartilage and fried noodles. Shimadofu is often used in soups and chanpuru, the signature Okinawan dish. It is firmer and saltier than standard tofu because it uses more of the coagulant bittern when it is being made.
In general, Singaporeans view dishes prepared with tofu as side dishes. One exception is teppanyaki tofu, a grilled tofu dish prepared much like a steak and enjoyed as a main course.

Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Store
・Store name: Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai
・Store URL:  http://niraikanai-sg.hungry.jp/
・Tel: +65-6339-4811

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