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Tofu-misozuke: first update

About a month and a half ago, we posted a rather mysterious post on the start of an experiment with only a picture with the caption “Proteases…on your mark, get set….go!” Now that we have results from the first month, it’s time for a proper post.

The photo and the mention of proteases might give some of you enough clues to figure out that our experiment is nothing more than a systematic attempt to arrive at a good recipe for tofu-misozuke: ripened miso-cured tofu that has the texture of a soft cheese.

A little bit of context: we got hooked on this dish after sampling it at a sake bar in Ginza back in 2009 (thanks to the confusing address numbering system in Tokyo, we failed to find a tea house and chanced upon this sake bar instead). After we came back, we searched in vain for a source of tofu-misozuke (we asked about it at every Japanese supermarket and every izakaya we went to) :(.

Luckily, during a long layover in Narita airport, Lamp bought the Izakaya cookbook (a great book, by the way; I highly recommend it) and we discovered that it had a recipe for tofu-misozuke. You could imagine our excitement upon this discovery. This dish has proved challenging to make, however.

We made several batches in the past year, but the results were hit or miss. Once we got really great result: the tofu was creamy, slightly sweet and wasn’t too salty, which got us incredibly thrilled. The rest of the time, though, the tofu was relatively hard and dry, or had an alcoholic taste, or was too salty. We just couldn’t reliably produce great tasting tofu-misozuke. After so much frustration, we decided to put Lamp’s scientific training to good use and actually started a systematic experiment to figure out what will make a good tofu-misozuke.

Back in December of last year, we started an experiment where we only varied the miso type while keeping all other variables (tofu type, drying time, proportions of tofu, miso, sake and sugar, etc.) the same. We also recorded the sodium levels of these 2 miso types because saltiness has been a constant problem.

1-month aged tofu

We are so happy to report that we actually found that miso type made a big difference. The one on the left was made from bulk yellow miso and yielded a very creamy tofu after a month while the organic brown miso (on the right) yielded a dry tofu with darker and stronger miso smell. The difference was very pronounced. The one on the left was very close to the tofu-misozuke that we had in Tokyo, with the exception of the presence of small tofu crumbs in each bite. The tofu we had in Tokyo was aged for 6 months, while this one was aged for only 1, so we still have a while to go yet. Also, from our past experience, we know that it takes a while for the proteases to work their way into the middle of the tofu block, so we are pretty sure that even though the small slice on the outside is soft and creamy, the middle is probably still hard and very tofu-like.

We feel very encouraged by the result of this first experiment. We’ll continue running this batch for the next 6 months to 2 years (this dish definitely requires a lot of patient waiting…very trying for me (Bird)!). Next month, we’ll start another experiment where we’ll vary the tofu type instead of miso. Stay tuned!