These days even cheap tofu tastes high quality, so who among us can spot the luxury tofu?

After years and years of eating and reviewing food, we’d like to think our reporters have expert palates that can tell the difference between expensive and cheap products, but in reality, blind taste testing is a lot harder than it looks. We’ve done loads of “Gourmet Writers’ Rating Checks”, in which our reporters taste samples of a certain food at two different price points to figure out which one is more expensive, and the results are often greatly divided!

In the latest trial, they opted to try two different brands of tofu. Though it had been a few months since the last blind taste test–since everyone was off traveling to San Diego, New York, Nikko, and Seoul during the summer–our reporters were ready to put their experienced palates to the test and see if they could pick out the more expensive brand of tofu. Will the long break prove a detriment? Or will their foodie talents carry them safely through? Let’s find out!

Before we begin, let’s review the rules of the Gourmet Writer’s Rating Check. Each participant must blindly eat a sample of both the “Super High Quality Product” and the “Ordinary Product” and decide which one is the more expensive brand. Whether they think it’s good or not, or whether they like it or not, does not matter, as long as they select the correct brand as the most expensive. Then, each reporter will be ranked based on their aggregate success rating.

These days there are a lot of reasonable tofu brands that are really delicious out there, so our reporters fully expected this to be a challenge. For the ordinary tofu, we selected “Firm Tofu” from convenience store Lawson, which sells for the low, low price of just 98 yen (US$0.66). In the other corner was the luxury brand “Hitasura Tofu”, which is available at the upscale shopping center Isetan for 583 yen. That’s a whopping 5.5 times difference in price.

According to the product’s page, Hitasura Tofu is “Exceedingly good, produced with the finest soy beans using handmade techniques. It is a tofu with an elegant and refined flavor.” It is also a firm tofu, which we picked specifically to match the Lawson tofu as best as possible.

Though they knew which brands they were tasting, each participant was given just a single bite of each without seeing the samples or knowing which was which. Understandably, they spent a lot of time deciding which was the more expensive variety. Here’s what each person had to say about the tofu:

P.K. Sanjun (A): “At first, I totally thought it was A, based on the sweetness and the softness of the texture. To be honest, A is delicious. But lately I feel like a lot of the cheaper tofu has that sweetness to it. That’s what held me up. 

“B, on the other hand, doesn’t have that sweetness, and if you’d told me it was ordinary I’d think it was ordinary. If I think about it rationally, I’d say it’s A, but I think other tofus have a similar flavor. Ahhh…This is harder than I thought, but I’m not gonna overthink it. I pick A!”

Mr. Sato (A): “This one is definitely A. I knew as soon as I ate it. The soy flavor is really food, and, I don’t know…the bitterns? I don’t know what I’m saying, but I felt like I should say that. 

“A is the kind of tofu they’d serve at a ryokan for breakfast. It’s like five times better than B, which was slightly watery. I feel pretty confident about this. I’m like, 80 percent sure. Yeah.”

Go Hatori (B): “In A, you can taste the soybeans. Yeah…But, when I ate B…I couldn’t tell!! Honestly, I have no idea. The first difference between them is the texture. A is more syrupy. B is somewhat firmer, kind of like freeze-dried tofu?

“However, cheap tofu these days is a bit sweet, and the flavor of the beans is pretty strong. If I think of it that way, I’d say B is one I haven’t tasted before. B is a new experience.”

Ahiruneko (A): “I eat firm tofu, but I don’t really eat it plain like this. No…I can’t tell just from eating one. This is harder than I thought…

“There is definitely a clear difference between A and B. A is softer, and B is firmer. But I don’t really know which one is more expensive. I really tried to investigate B, but it didn’t have as much of an aura as I thought it would. I’m not super confident about this.”

Seiji Nakazawa (A): “I’m intense about firm tofu; I eat it almost every night. I think I know which one is the Lawson tofu. Ah, yes. I know this one. So the answer is A. I’m positive.

“Expensive firm tofu has a strong soy flavor, and A’s was really strong. Plus, the texture was like silk. B was firm and didn’t have a strong soy flavor. It felt like firm tofu from a convenience store.”

Masanuki Sunakoma (A): “Somehow my sense for food has come back, even after a two-month break. The answer is A. I really feel like the quality of the ingredients is directly tied to the price. I know because I like tofu. 

“I can tell that A is made with good soybeans. B just had a really weak flavor, and I felt like it was missing something. A is something you can eat as is, and it has a flavor that sticks with you.”

Takashi Harada (A): “I’m not going to lose this time. My family makes tofu at home. Hmm…I feel like A doesn’t have much flavor? Wait…neither does B? I do feel like A is a bit firmer.

“This is extremely difficult. I like the flavor of A better, but…No, I’m gonna go with A. B feels a bit watery. I think A is like something Isetan would sell. Well, they’re both definitely tofu.”

Yoshio (A): “I like tofu, but I mostly eat soft tofu. Is A even firm? There’s no doubt, the answer is A. As soon as I tried it, I couldn’t believe the silkiness. It’s ridiculous. 

“By that token, B is firmer and feels like its had the moisture pressed out of it. It’s definitely firm tofu. A has no odd taste and is the kind of tofu you can keep eating forever. I’m very sure about this. Honestly, A is delicious.”

Our reporters, who are generally not that good at this, actually felt pretty confident about this one. As you can see, almost everyone agreed that A was more the expensive tofu.  The room was split 7:1 for A and B, and Go was the only one who chose B…Would he earn a splendid victory that he could lord over his fellow reporters?

So which tofu was the more expensive Hitasura Tofu from Isetan?


A! The answer was A!

A was far and away the sweeter tofu, and it really had a strong flavor of soybeans, but the contest was tricky because a lot of cheaper tofu is also sweet these days. Luckily, most of our reporters didn’t think too hard about it before they chose.

P.K.: 31 wins / 7 losses (81.5-percent correct rate): “I thought it could’ve been B too, but…the flavor was ordinary!”

Seiji: 24 wins / 7 losses (77.4-percent correct rate): “It really tasted like soy!”

Ahiru Neko: 22 wins / 11 losses (66.6-percent correct rate): “B had way less of an aura than I expected!”

Go: 22 wins / 12 losses (64.7-percent correct rate): “B was the one with a taste I’d never had before…”

Masanuki: 22 wins / 15 losses (59.4-percent correct rate): “The quality of the ingredients is directly tied to the price.”

Mr. Sato: 18 wins / 14 losses (56.2-percent correct rate): “Bitterns? Or is that not the word? I just felt like I should say that.”

Yoshio: 16 wins / 15 losses (51.6-percent correct rate): “A had a ridiculous silkiness. Ridiculous.”

Harada: 17 wins / 17 losses (50-percent correct rate): “B was kind of watery, I thought.”

And so our reporter ranking continues. Who in the end will come out on top with the most refined palate in all of the SoraNews24 office? Stay tuned to find out!

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