Make tofu that’s even better than what you can buy at the store at home!

Are you a fan of tofu? It’s a hugely popular ingredient in Japanese cooking, but aside from its prevalence in vegetarian and plant-based dishes, it’s not a very popular food in Europe or the Americas. But if you’re someone who likes tofu, whether for cooking or for eating cold with a little sauce, then you’ll want to check out this make-your-own tofu kit sold by organic food and kitchen accessory shop Kawashimaya.

This kit comes with almost everything you need to make tofu from scratch, and according to Japanese message boards, the resulting tofu is so delicious it’s even better than what you can buy at the store. Of course, being food aficionados ourselves, we had to try it out, so we headed over to our closest Kawashimaya to pick up our a kit of our own.

Inside the kit was a wooden tofu molding box, 500 grams (about 1.1 pounds) of organic Toyomasaru daizu beans, 200 mililiters (6.8 fluid ounces) of Oshima Umi no Sei bitterns (a salt concentration from sea brine), a bleached cloth, a filter bag, and a tofu recipe book; just about everything specific you would need to make tofu.

Everything seemed very thoughtfully put together. The tofu box, in particular, was made with 100-percent Owase hinoki cypress wood, so it smelled really nice. It looked sturdy and well made, too. It got us excited to get started.

Unfortunately the first step is to soak the beans in water for up to a day, so we had to wait a little bit to get started.

▼ Before soaking on the right, after nine hours of soaking on the left (this was done in summer so results may vary)

Apparently the flavor of the tofu can be affected in very subtle ways by the water you use to soak the beans with, so we decided to use bottled Mt. Fuji Natural Spring Water to give it a nice fresh flavor.

Once the soaking was done, we put the softened beans into a blender with the water and ground them down into a creamy white liquid, which we poured into a pot to boil. The solution got surprisingly bubbly and fluffy as it heated up. At first we were delighted because it was like making a huge latte, but then it looked like it was going to bubble over, and we got worried we would have to get a bigger pot.

▼ Our pot was just big enough.

So our suggestion to you is to use the biggest pot you have at home to avoid a big mess–and having to wash two pots. This kind of unexpected discovery is part of the fun of cooking from scratch, don’t you think?

The highlight of our time making the tofu, though, was separating the soy pulp for the soy milk. It took a lot of muscle power to squeeze out the liquid from the bag, so when we were done, we felt a pretty serious sense of achievement.

▼ Strain the mixture in the filter bag while it’s still hot and squeeze it out (trying not to scald your hands) to make soy milk (bottom left) and soy curds (bottom right).

Once the soy milk had been separated from the curds, it had to go back into the pot to warm until it reached 75 to 80 degrees Celsius (167 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit), at which time we added the bitterns. After fifteen minutes, it reached a chunky, almost-tofu state, so we tucked the cloth into the box and packed the mixture in so it could take its traditional rectangular form.

What was fun about this experiment was watching the tofu beans change shape over time. From beans to a pulverized paste, to the separated curds and milk, and finally its almost-tofu state–we felt like we were performing alchemy to turn beans into tofu, and we were digging it!

▼ Left to right, top to bottom: pulverized beans and water, soy milk, soy curds, tofu-like state

We let the tofu sit in the box for a little bit, with something heavy on the lid to keep the shape. After a while we took it out and let it soak and cool in water for 30 minutes. This is supposed to get rid of any harsh flavors caused by the bitterns.

And then…and then!! Our little Tofu-chan was born!!

Though it was made by simple laypeople–a.k.a. us–, anyone looking at it would know that it was tofu. It looked and felt and smelled like tofu…so we can proudly say that we successfully made our own tofu!

But now the most important part: the taste test. Did our tofu taste any good? Was it worth all the trouble? We immediately tried it out.

We dressed it simply with soy sauce and ginger, and ate it cold. To our pleasure, it tasted just like daizu beans! Plus, the texture was surprisingly firm. It was exceedingly jiggly and soft when we pulled it out of the water, so we were worried it would be too mushy, but it proved to be a very solid, very flavorful block of tofu.

Perhaps because we used the bitterns to cook it, or maybe because we didn’t let it soak in water for long enough, it was a little salty. We only needed a very little bit of soy sauce to flavor it. But it was still super delicious, to the point where we would be proud to share it with someone!

Not including the time it took to soak the beans, the whole process took about two hours. In addition to what’s in the box, we did need a few extra items, namely: a blender, two mixing bowls, a strainer, measuring cups, a large pot, a ladle, a wooden spatula, oven mitts, and a heavyweight item to put on the box. So if you want to try this, make sure you have all those things on hand!

All in all, it was a fairly easy process, and it’d be a great activity to enjoy with children and other family members. The recipe book is very easy to follow and there are steps for all ages to participate in. Plus, it’s a good experience for everyone involved to learn how to make tofu, soy milk, and soy curds, all of which you see ready-made at the supermarket but never think about how they’re made.

The kit costs 3,880 yen (US$36.80), which might seem like a lot to spend when you can buy tofu blocks for 99 yen each at the supermarket. But with this kit, you’re paying for the experience. Plus, you can reuse the cloth, box, and filter bag again, so you can get your money’s worth from it if you really want to. Maybe you can use it to try making chocolate tofu? The sky’s the limit!

Top image: Pakutaso
Photos © SoraNews24

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