For tofu lovers of the world, introducing Kanazawa’s homemade tofu would probably be our one mission.
You know 80-90 percent of tofu is water, which means the quality of the water for making delicious tofu should be excellent.
The Hokuriku region is well-known for its good water, hence everyday we likely are lucky enough to have made the best tofu.
“Hokuriku Enrei” brand soybeans and pure spring water!
Just like a bakery, a tofu shop’s work typically starts early in the morning as they also sell the fresh tofu daily. Bright and early (at least for us at 7am), we visited the family-owned shop, Nakatani Tofu, which is located in the Nishi Chayagai geisha district.
Overnight-water-soaked soybeans were just about to be ground with water when we arrived. Nakatani Tofu mostly utilizes the Hokuriku Enrei brand of soybeans from local farms for their products, and they use the water streaming underground from its source at Mt. Hakusan. It’s been said that, “Without good water, there is no good tofu!” because 80-90 percent of tofu is actually water. It pretty much makes sense, doesn’t it?
Well, now it‘s time for boiling those mashed beans! The steam filled with a soy aroma fills the room! Shortly afterward, they start to filter the boiled ingredient to “okara (bean-curd refuse)” and “tonyu (soy milk).” Okara actually contains much dietary fiber, protein, and calcium. Japanese people often cook the bean-curd refuse, such as for a sauté with vegetables, burgers, soups, or cookies. Speaking of okara dishes, remember that “Tai-no-karamushi” is also one of Kanazawa’s traditional cuisines, which is sea bream stuffed with yummy okara. Mostly it’s served for auspicious events, such as weddings.
Following the boiling, they cool the tonyu milk and let us try some as a sample. Still warm, it tastes a little green and slightly sweet. It’s obvious that this milk is good for our health!
While we enjoyed getting this healthy energy from the creamy beverage, they move on toward finishing up the entire process. The Nakatani family uses their own hands for most every part of the process, excluding the more laborious work covered by machinery. Although their custom-made grinders, mixers, and filters help them with these more grueling tasks, they still must check on how the ingredients proceeding at every stage. They add a second stage of filtration by employing a big, fabric bag to adjust the conditions. Yes, tofu is sort of their own 'high-maintenence' baby, one that they must take care of everyday!
Some other tofu products, such as
deep fried tofu are also a must-try!
Plain, square tofu is not the only product at most tofu shops. Deep fried tofu (atsuage) or sesame tofu (goma-dofu) are also regularly made there. Zaru-dofu (tofu served on a small bamboo tray) is one of Nakatani’s smash hits. We recommend that you don't cook zaru-dofu, as eating it fresh is the best way!
For people who are big fans of frozen sweets, the Nakatani family has created their own original “Tonyu Soft Cream.” 70 percent of this ice-cream cone is actually soy milk! Additionally, they also sell “Tofu Gelato ice-cream” which contains fresh tofu! Rest assured that those two morsels are not made overly sweet so as to keep the natural soybean flavor. As a matter of fact, many Japanese tourists as well stop by this tofu shop for those original frozen sweets when they visit the geisha district.
It’s located just next to the district’s office, and run by the Nakatani family, whose two generations work together simultaneously. Although their factory isn’t open to the public, you’ll likely see one of them in the front shop.
Nishi Chayagai Geisha District (2-19-133, Nomachi, Kanazawa)
Phone/ Fax: 076-241-3983
Open: 7:00-19:00; Closed: Sundays