I made a visit on March 20, 2009 to the Morika Tofu Company in Kyoto, Japan. They are always voted “best tofu” in the entire world, each and every year.
In Japan, and parts of Asia, tofu making is considered an art. Ideally, tofu is made every morning in small shops around Japan. Kyoto is to tofu what New York is to pizza, and Chicago to hot dogs. The Kyoto variety has been perfected over centuries by Buddhist monks, as well as in imperial kitchens and small, artisan shops like Morika. It is the gold standard, the best in Japan, and therefore, the world.
The thing that turns tonyu, or soy milk, into tofu is called nigari. Crystals of magnesium chloride act as a coagulant, much as rennin makes cheese curds out of cow’s milk. The familiar, firm, square-cut variety is called momen-dofu, meaning “cotton tofu,” as it was traditionally pressed over a porous cloth. Kinugoshi-dofu means “silken tofu,” and while silk isn’t actually used to prepare it, the name makes sense: It is a wet, jiggly tofu with the silken creaminess of a custard—the best a soybean can be. (from Adam Sachs)
So, why Kyoto? Much like Olympia beer in Tumwater, Washington, they say it’s the water in Kyoto. Kyoto has good quality water thanks to hundreds of underground springs. It is a soft water, and good for making tofu. Secondly, Kyoto grows high quality soy beans. The third, and perhaps most important reason, are the many temples around Kyoto. The priests in these temples are against killing animals.
Each tofu shop has a long history and tradition. Competition is fierce. Though the birthplace of tofu was in China, it spread to other countries. Some of the famous shops in Kyoto:
1) Morika, of course. Established 140 years ago. The originator of Kyo-tofu.
2) Junsei. Famous for its yudoufu (tofu immersed in hot kelp soup).
3) Toyoukeya Yamamoto. Established in 1898, also sells yuba and age.
4) Yubanzai Komameya. Affordable yuba dishes exclusively.
Several arguments exist over when the best time to eat tofu might be. Diehards will say anytime. Purists will say only at lunch time. I say, whenever you take an expensive taxi ride from your hotel in Kyoto, to the outskirts of town where Morika Tofu is made. It might only be once in a lifetime. In my case, it was most likely the world’s most expensive tofu.
Here is the link to my blog: http://www.travelblog.org › Asia › Japan › Kyoto › Kyoto › Blogs
Part of the story:
So, it was about a $60 ride to Morika, and then back to our drop off point. The tofu was about $5 each. So $70 for 2 blocks of tofu, and one small piece of yaki tofu. But worth every penny since we enjoyed our banter with the driver. He gave Sheri his prayer beads as a token of his appreciation. We felt very honored. When we ate the tofu, it simply melted in our mouth.