Nobody knows who came up with koyadofu first, though it’s certainly a traditional Japanese flavor that dates back to ancient times. Koyadofu is made simply from soybeans, and has long been enjoyed throughout Japan under the names “Shimi-dofu” or “Koyasan-dofu.” It looks just like a hard sponge, and it doesn’t even appear to be edible or fresh. Koyadofu could have been destined to simply die out, but now it is appreciated for its distinctively high nutritional value. Koyadofu is an excellent, storable healthy food that Japan can boast to the world. Its nostalgic taste is now becoming increasingly popular and is soon to emerge as a dynamic influence on modern cooking.

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What is Koyadofu?

Koyadofu originated in the Kamakura period (1185 to 1333) at Mt. Koya. Mt. Koya, at about 3,000 feet elevation, experiences severely cold winters. One year, it apparently got so cold the tofu froze. Although the residents of Mt. Koya were reluctant to eat the frozen tofu, they found it to have an interesting, spongy texture and a pleasing flavor. The eating of frozen tofu spread from Mt. Koya into the Kansai region. Before long, koyadofu was prized for its high nutritional content. Today, it is a food that Japan is proud to offer throughout the world. Its only ingredient is the soybean. The proteins and fats of soy are readily absorbed from koyadofu. Koyadofu today is produced from momen-dofu (firm tofu). The momen-dofu turns spongy when frozen and is then further dehydrated with heat.

Koyadofu comprises approximately 50% high-quality vegetable proteins and about 33% vegetable fats. It contains calcium, iron, etc, and is nutritionally balanced, with a 96% digestiveabsorption rate. Of the many soybean products, koyadofu is particularly healthful. New research indicates that koyadofu is effective in preventing lifestyle diseases by suppressing cholesterol and the absorption of fats.

The Nutritional Value of Koyadofu

Koyadofu is a reliable friend in supporting the growth of your children, and will help them build strong bodies. The protein in koyadofu makes up the fundamental structures of somatic cells and helps build strong muscles. It’s calcium helps build strong bones and ensure a stable emotional state. The lecithin content of koyadofu supports our brain functions such as memory, concentration and learning ability.

When You Are Pregnant or Nursing

Koyadofu is rich in iron, which is an essential element for women. Especially if a woman is pregnant or nursing, iron is the most important nutrient she needs to replenish. If a mother’s iron intake isn’t sufficient, she can suffer the effects of anemia. Iron deficiency in infants can cause delayed development. So, if you’re a nursing mother we especially recommend eating koyadofu. It’s a nourishing food that supplies babies and mothers alike with important nutrients such as protein, iron and calcium, and it facilitates the excretion of dioxins accumulated in the body.

Enhance Your Beauty and Health

Because Koyadofu is a low-calorie protein food, it doesn’t cause weight gain and therefore it is an ideal diet food. It also contains plenty of iron and vitamin E, so it’s effective in making your skin feel firmer and younger and can prevent iron-deficiency anemia, fatigue and low motivation. Koyadofu is also high in lecithin, calcium and isoflavone. Lecithin can provide positive effects for women who want to lose weight, while calcium and isoflavone can help prevent the emaciation and bone loss caused by extreme dieting. To help you lose weight in a healthy way, koyadofu is a perfect food.

Anti-aging Effects

Koyadofu contains vitamin E, which has beneficial effects not only in the preventing of skin aging and wrinkling but can also aging in the prevention of premature aging of the body. Another benefit is that linoleic acid and altered proteins caused by the freezing help suppress cholesterol levels. The lecithin is essential for overall brain activity and is therefore thought to be effective in preventing senile dementia.

Special Observances Called “Hare” (Festival)

We in Japan have observed the tradition of marking the stages of people’s lives such as the New Year and Obon from time immemorial. On these special days, we offer thanks to gods and our ancestors with pious devotion. We call these observances “hare” (festivals).

Special foods have always been part of Japanese festivals. To celebrate, we give offerings to gods and ancestors by making “feasts” to pray for the health and happiness of all our family members and friends. Koyadofu has been a festival food since olden days. The soybean is one of the five grains viewed as a gift from Heaven. From antiquity, it has been said to have the “power to ward off evil,” to protect from hunger and disease. Since it is made from soybeans, koyadofu is considered to have the same powers.

Moreover, the proteins, calcium, iron, and other nutrients of koyadofu are easier to digest than in plain soybeans. It is indeed suitable for celebratory occasions. Starting with the New Year’s “osechi-ryori” (special dishes prepared for the New Year), “momo-no-sekku” (the Dolls’ Festival), “tango-no-sekku” (the Boys’ Festival), “shichi-go-san” (celebration of a child’s third, fifth, and seventh years) to pray for health and growth of children, “Obon” (summer festival that honors ancestors), and “Higan” (spring and fall equinox observances) when Buddhist memorial services are held for our ancestors, koyadofu is served at all these festivals. This custom of eating koyadofu must have originated from the ancients’ everyday wisdom in realizing the importance of maintaining the health of the people.

Homemade Koyadofu

A surprisingly easy recipe! Try it at home!
Things you need: Nijiya Organic-tofu (momen-dofu [firm cotton-strained tofu]), 1 container to put tofu in.

Directions

    Homemade-Koyadofu-01

  1. Place the tofu in the container and let the excess water drain away for 10 minutes. Put the tofu in the container and then place it in the freezer.
  2. Homemade-Koyadofu-02

  3. Once the color turns yellowish and the tofu is completely frozen, take it out of the freezer.
  4. Homemade-Koyadofu-03

  5. Defrost, then gently squeeze to remove the excess water. Cut and season as desired. (To defrost, you can either thaw it at room temperature or use a microwave.)

How to Cook Koyadofu

Try these quick-and-easy koyadofu recipes and many variations

Healthy Japanese-style Koyadofu Hamberger Recipe

Koyadofu Hamburger

Ingredients (Serves 10 small burgers)

Hunberger:

  • 2.2 lb. ground beef
  • 2.6 oz. koyadofu
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. potato starch
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp. sake

Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. mirin
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. Put the koyadofu in a food processor until it turns to powder.
  2. Put all the Hamburger ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Divide into 10 equal portions.
  3. Mix the Sauce ingredients together.
  4. Heat sesame oil in a pan. Arrange the hamburgers in the pan. Pour the sake over the burgers. Cook with lid on.
  5. When one side is browned, flip the burgers and lower the heat. Pour in half of the sauce.
  6. When the second side is browned, set to high heat again, and pour in the rest of the sauce.

Koyadofu no Fukume-ni (Simmered Koyadofu) Recipe

Koyadofu-Fukumi-Ni

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 3 oz. koyadofu (about 6 blocks)
  • 1/4 carrot
  • 8 kinusaya pea pods

For seasoned broth:

  • 400ml dashi soup stock
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2-1/2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2-1 /2 tsp. mirin (sweet rice cooking wine)
  • Pinch of salt

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat water in a saucepan and make a seasoned broth.
  2. Add dry koyadofu (no soaking required) to the broth and simmer over medium heat.
  3. Continue to simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated. (When your koyadofu already comes with dashi soup base, follow the directions provided on the package.)

Koyadofu no Age-ni (Deep-Fried and Simmered Koyadofu) Recipe

Koyadofu-Age-Ni

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 1 oz. koyadofu (about 2 blocks)
  • 2 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1/4 takenoko mizuni (blanched bamboo shoots)
  • 12 green peas
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 400ml dashi soup stock
  • An adequate amount of
  • katakuri-ko (potato starch) and cooking oil for deep-frying

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak dried koyadofu in warm water until softened. Gently squeeze the excess water from it, then cut each block into 4 triangles of equal size. Dredge in katakuri-ko and deep-fry in oil.
  2. Cut the carrot into chunks. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in water until softened, then cut into quarters. Cut the bamboo shoots into thin ginkgo-leaf shapes. Simmer the prepared vegetables in the stock.
  3. Season the cooked vegetables. Add koyadofu and allow it to absorb the flavor in the soup.

Koyadofu and Vegetable Tamago-toji (simmered with egg) Recipe

Koyadofu-Tamago-Toji

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 0.5 oz. koyadofu (about 1 block)
  • 200ml dashi soup stock
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/4 carrot
  • 1 dried shiitake mushroom
  • 1/8 cup takenoko mizuni (blanched bamboo shoots)
  • 1/2 chicken pieces
  • 1/4 bundle of spinach
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sake
  • 2 egg, lightly beaten

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak dried koyadofu in warm water until softened. Drain in a colander, then slice. Cut the chicken into small pieces. Cut the onion into wedges. Cut the carrot and the bamboo shoots into thin rectangular pieces. Soak the dried mushroom in water until softened, then slice. Cut the spinach into pieces 1 inch to 1.5 inches long.
  2. Heat dashi stock in an iron pot, then add the prepared ingredients in the following order: chicken, onion, carrot, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Simmer until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add koyadofu and the seasonings. Simmer.
  4. Add spinach pieces and stir in the beaten egg.

Koyadofu no Goma-ae (Koyadofu with Sesame Dressing) Recipe

Koyadofu-Goma-Ae

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 0.5 oz. koyadofu (about 1 block)
  • 2 sticks imitation crabmeat
  • 1/2 pack shimeji mushrooms
  • 1/4 pack konnyaku (a jelly-like food made from konnyaku potatoes)
  • Sake
  • Soy sauce

Goma-dare (sesame dressing):

  • 4 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak koyadofu in warm water until softened. Drain in a colander, then cut into thin rectangular pieces.
  2. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and break into small clusters. Braise with a small amount of sake and soy sauce.
  3. Cook the konnyaku in boiling water and rinse under cold, running water. Cut the konnyaku in half horizontally, then slice into thin rectangular pieces. Wash the imitation crabmeat in boiling water and shred it into small pieces.
  4. Mix the dressing ingredients together. Toss with the koyadofu, mushrooms, imitation crabmeat and konnyaku.

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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