Tamago tofu 卵豆腐 is a small dish that makes appearances in kaiseki Japanese haute cuisine meals. Tamago tofu translates to egg tofu but it isn’t actually tofu – there are no soy beans. It’s dashi and egg, steamed in a square, making it more a unsweetened custard than tofu. The color and consistency resembles tofu, which is where it got its name.
It is said in ancient Japan, poultry and their byproducts (ex: eggs) used for consumption was against Buddhist beliefs and weren’t incorporated into Japanese cooking until 1333. The first recorded recipe of tamago tofu was in a cooking essay published in 1785, thus considered a newer dish.
I guess in a country with recorded history dating back to year 787 (Heian period), 1785 can be perceived as… new 0_0 Sometimes I forget how old Japan is.
Anyway, the other night I had an exquisite dinner at one of my favorite places and tamago tofu was one of our dishes. My dining companion (non-Japanese) asked about the dish and I couldn’t answer all his questions. So of course I asked one of the chefs who overloaded me with information I translated. He was so intrigued by this dish, I thought I’d share here too.
(Pardon the messy photo — I forgot to snap a picture until we served ourselves)
The green vegetable that looks like a skinny green bean is junsai. The English translation is Brasenia schreberi or water shield. Google images pulled up photos of flat, round green clusters floating in water reminiscent of lily pads. That caught me a bit off guard since I was expecting a thin pipe like vegetable. Further googling taught me junsai is an aquatic plant commonly found in Hangzhou, China and Japan. This was probably more information than you wanted to know about an obscure green.
The white squares are yamaimo (mountain potato — the yam with the texture of okra) and the tamago tofu was topped with thin coils of crisp cucumber in a dashi broth. Oh and shrimp, of course.
Tamago tofu is served at room temperature, as was this dish. The silky tamago tofu with the vivid and crunchy vegetables and smooth dashi broth was so refreshing. It was like an elegant summer day.
Wish everyone could experience this once in their lives.