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Tofu misozuke update #5 – kelp variations

Now that we have a good recipe for tofu misozuke, it’s time to experiment! With the ecology of cheeses as inspiration and guide, we hope to drive the  speciation of our delicious creamy tofu to many unoccupied niches. One of our goals was to recreate a variant we only knew from written description: a pungent, Roquefort-like kombu-wrapped miso marinated tofu. We started a pilot experiment 2 months ago and we were excited enough about the results to pursue further.

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A recipe for tofu-misozuke

We’re at an odd place in our development of the tofu-misozuke recipe. After 2 years, lots of web searches, several scientific papers, 1 partially translated 18th century manuscript, and more failures than we can count, we are finally having steady enough success to keep our fridge well stocked with the oenophilic snack that’s been our obsession since our introduction to it. On the other hand, there are enough random inconsistencies that we don’t have a recipe we’re absolutely happy with yet (and hence the several tofu misozuke experiments we have run and are setting up). On the third hand, things do not go awry often enough that we can reproduce the problems and pin them down.

Our very first encounter with tofu misozuke (aged for 6 months), Tokyo 2009

So when a reader asked us for the tofu misozuke recipe, the 2 of us debated whether we were ready to share it. Ultimately, we decided to stick with open sourcing not only in the finished products but also in development. What follows is our current recipe:
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Tofu-misozuke: time course experiment – month 1 update

First result from tofu misozuke time course experiment is in! Beautiful, soft, creamy and flavorful tofu misozuke from soft tofu after 1 month of incubation:

1 month aged tofu-misozuke

1 month aged tofu-misozuke

The cheesecloth really helped to make unwrapping tofu-misozuke mess-free. It also gave tofu misozuke a nice textile pattern. As expected, this tofu was quite creamy. However, the very middle of the block was not quite as creamy as the outside: the texture was somewhere between silken tofu and creamy cheese. It’ll be interesting to see what 2 month aged tofu-misozuke from soft tofu will be like.

It was great to see we were able to cut the salt level down to a much more acceptable level. Perhaps a little bit too much, though, because I thought the taste lacked the depth that the previous saltier batches had. Anyways, it means we now have a floor for salt level and are getting closer to that perfect recipe for this dish.

This is so exciting! Really can’t wait to get results from other time points in the next few months!!! (It’s definitely great to have a steady supply of tofu-misozuke :). Can’t wait until we scale up and are able to share this yummy dish with you!)


Tofu-misozuke: things you can do with your tofu-misozuke & update #4

tofu-misozuke on bread and crisp rice crackers

Tofu misozuke hits many of the same spot as soft cheeses and can be enjoyed in many of the same ways. We originally had it straight up and paired with sake. It’s also great spread on baguettes and bánh đa (tapioca cracklings). On the other hand, the salt content and assertive taste of many crackers make that pairing a hit or miss affair.

Here’s another way of enjoying tofu-misozuke, inspired by how the Vietnamese sometimes eat mắm (fermented fish): spread tofu-misozuke on a slice of cucumber, whose coolness and crispiness provide an excellent contrast to the soft, intense tofu.

Tofu misozuke on cucumber

That’s a great snack all by itself, but we also like to add herbs to all things:

add herb on top of cucumber-tofu misozuke ensemble

Seen above are húng cây (spearmint) and tía tô (shiso). Kinh giới (Vietnamese balm) and lemon balm (kinh giới Mỹ) also work great, especially with the next addition:

add sardines on top to round out the ensemble

Finally, a piece of sardine (cá mòi) cooked and canned in olive oil is placed on top of herbs, tofu misozuke, and cucumber. This combination makes a great hors-d’oeuvre that is filled with textural and flavor contrast. The tofu-misozuke, herbs and sardines are each strongly assertive in their own ways yet blend together into a suprisingly well rounded whole. Just remember to pick a can of sardines that’s low in sodium; they vary wildly.

An aside: Canned sardines, by the way, are totally a part of Vietnamese cuisine after being imported by/for Frenchmen serving in Indochina. The luxurious aura of foreign food during the colonial era and the lean, iron-curtained post-war years helped, but canned sardines are also just plain good (see also: those red cans of Bretel butter, still cherished by those Vietnamese living in the land of fresh butter and innumerable cheeses). I still relish my occasional sardines and baguette breakfast, and the same combination are still offered by many bánh mì stands in Vietnam.

Updates on tofu-misozuke from CA and MI:

– Soft tofu is gone – all eaten 😀

– Medium firm tofu was soft and creamy (and almost gone; half of it should be in Lyon, France by now; another quarter was consumed at a birthday party this past weekend). It was still on the salty side but paired really nicely with a slice of cucumber.

– Firm tofu was creamy on the outside (I didn’t check the middle; it was probably still crumbly inside). It was still on the salty side.

– Firm tofu with lemongrass was still crumbly, which was perplexing. I wonder if the presence of lemongrass inhibited protease activities. I’ll let this run for a few more months to see. The flavor was more complex than just miso, but it was difficult to identify the additional flavor as that of lemongrass.

– Tofu with kelp: the tofu block wrapped in the better grade kelp was starting to become soft and creamy. The taste was amazing: kelp flavor was there in the tofu and blended very well with miso flavor. It was very delicious and mildly pungent. I can’t wait until this one ripens. The excitement was dampened a bit when I had to throw out the block of tofu wrapped in lesser grade kelp. It had all sorts of growth on both sides of the kelp :( Oh well, at least there’s still one good block of tofu to continue this experiment.

– The attempt to control salt content by cutting marinade amount was a success. All arms of the experiment were creamy and rich. The original recipe was creamier than the rest, but only noticeable in a direct comparison. The others will catch up, I’m sure. Most importantly, the tofu with the least marinade was well on its way to being a full-fledged tofu-misozuke, with a much diminished salt presence.


Tofu-misozuke: time course experiment + a squash blossom dish

We fell in love with tofu misozuke at our first taste of 6-month aged tofu. So far, none of our tofu-misozuke has lasted that long, either due to failure or over-consumption of successful batches. This experiment is designed to ensure at least 1 block will make it to 6 months. Plus, it’ll allow us to keep track of the changes beyond the 2-month mark, which we know so far is the minimum required for a firm block of tofu to become creamy.

tofu-misozuke: time course experiment

The above 2 Pyrex containers hold 4 blocks of tofu. Each block is wrapped in 2 layers of cheesecloth and covered in the same miso mix. They’ll be unwrapped at 3, 4, 5 and 6 months (1 at each milestone). I cut the amount of miso used in half, in an effort to cut down on the saltiness of the finished product. Let’s hope it’ll work.

Another reason we are running this time course experiment is that even though our first batch was creamy and incredibly tasty at 2-month mark, it became slightly bitter a month later (3 months). We couldn’t think of explanations for this development, so we want to see if this is reproducible.

Not pictured is another Pyrex container holding 2 soft blocks of tofu, similarly wrapped in cheese cloth and covered in miso. These soft blocks will be incubated for 1 and 2 months. From our previous batch, we know that soft tofu became creamy starting at 2 weeks (the core was still not creamy enough in such a short time, though. The whole block needed at least 3 weeks), so we won’t need to run this part of the experiment much longer than that. Plus, a shorter incubation period is probably better for soft tofu to preserve the fresh and light taste (similar to fresh cheese).

That’s the experiment I just set up this morning. In summary, I’ll have 1 block of tofu to enjoy every month (starting with soft tofu) :) and will report how the taste changes with time.

A side note: the Mountain View farmers’ market is starting to have these fresh and incredibly inviting squash blossoms. I couldn’t help myself and had to buy a box last Sunday. After thinking through different possibilities, I was compelled :) to create this dish: marinated thinly sliced beef with a few drops of yuzu, wrapped each slice around a cube of tofu misozuke (some slices had tofu misozuke smeared on) and stuffed each slice in a squash blossom.

tofu-misozuke wrapped in yuzu-marinated beef stuffed in squash blossoms

Here’s a whole plate, before going into the oven (some torn blossoms were wrapped in beef slices instead). I had more flowers than originally thought, so there was a mix of different types in this plate:

– squash blossoms stuffed with tofu-misozuke cube wrapped in yuzu-marinated beef

– squash blossoms stuffed with yuzu-marinated beef smeared with tofu misozuke

– squash blossoms stuffed with tofu-misozuke wrapped in beef

– squash blossoms stuffed with beef

– squash blossoms wrapped in beef slices

squash blossoms - before broiling

In the end, I definitely loved the first combination the best. The combination of tastes and textures in each bite was amazing: the sweetness of squash blossom was followed by the refreshingly light taste of yuzu combined with the soft texture and savoriness of beef, which was then followed by a burst of the creamy tofu-misozuke center. The bite ends with the mingling of yuzu and miso flavors, which was a good combination as long as the amount of yuzu used was small.

broiled squash blossoms