A QUINTESSENTIALLY HUMBLE DELICACY. Tofu, or bean curd, can be dated back more than 2000 years into the ancient royal kitchens of the nobility who savoured this prized dish, keeping it hidden from the common class. With the spread of Buddhism into Japan around the Nara Period (710-794), so too did the mighty humble Tofu, first appearing in Kyoto, then spreading to the rest of the Japanese archipelago around the Edo Period(1603-1868), soon becoming the mainstay Japanese food.
Tofu comes from the process of cooking soybeans, coagulating soy milk and pressing the the curds that result. Many delicious tofu dishes are made using assorted toppings like chopped green onions, sliced ginger, grated wasabi, and bonito flakes with soy sauce drizzled overtop.
This restaurant that I am introducing to you today is on-site at an important shrine. And as is customary, a humble restaurant, serving nourishing tofu is a necessity. Please enjoy this wonderfully preserved oasis.
The Miyama Tofu Restaurant can be found in the Saitama Prefecture of Japan, located right between Lake Sayama and Lake Tama.
Driving along Route 55, we went down a short steep road to a parking lot for Konjo-In Shrine and Seibu Kyu-Jo Station. That’s where we found the restaurant, a two story house nestled in Totoro Forest. Entering through its noren curtains, the owner’s friendly voice welcomed us into a corridor glowing with lamps illuminating the paper sho-ji door. An engawa veranda surrounded our eating area as we sat on zabuton pillows to the sounds of birds singing in the forest.
With a warm and welcoming smile on her face, the owner brought out her delicate, finely prepared dishes with salt, spices and chopped onions for added flavor.
Our first dish was the yuu dofu, hot tofu broth. The steaming hot tofu slices were first brought out in a ceramic pot. We then added the soy sauce, spices and chopped onions over the tofu, along with the savory broth.
Aemono came next. These are silky and smooth, sour and sweet tofu bites placed over Iwatake mushrooms from Chichibu. Our third superb-tasting dish was agedashi dofu, deep fried tofu and grated daikon radish, topped with nori seaweed and green onion. Then came sho jii, a stunning vegetarian tempura with the sweetest kabocha pumpkins. Fine and delicate, it just melted in our mouths.
Up next was miso gengaku, grilled firm tofu with miso paste on skewers. The taste of the miso paste was subtle, coming from a blend of red Nagoya Haccho Miso (tart and salty), and a white Kyoto Miso (sweet). Its flavor was deeply intoxicating.
This was followed by the beautifully prepared isobe age, soft tofu lightly deep fried and wrapped with nori, another amazing selection. The texture is similar to mochi rice cakes. Yummy.
The second to last selection was takigawa dofu. Literally meaning “waterfall river tofu,” it comes in the form of delicately sliced tofu cut into the shape of noodles and topped with shredded wasabi.
The final dish was dofu yuba, a rich and creamy bean curd delicacy with the seasonal decoration of Japanese momiji leaves and mildly ground wasabi paste. With the final dish, our Miyama Tofu journey was over. The tofu was simple, elegant, and absolutely delicious! We savored every bite, wanting more from this little sanctuary away from big city of Tokyo.
Some final notes on Miyama Restaurant: Dishes don’t normally come with rice, but you can order it separately. If a reservation is made, then the course comes with green tea porridge. The green tea is a locally produced, famous brand of Sayama Cha. The dishes aren’t served with sauces; soy sauce is used to enhance the food’s natural flavors.
When leaves change to red and yellow in autumn, Miyama serves momiji tempura. Japanese sweets and green tea are served in the tea house where you can enjoy the scenery of an authentic Japanese garden. In the garden, you can see many little birds and insects that you can’t find in the city. We even saw a rare hummingbird type of insect called a sparrow moth feeding on flowers.