Spoonful Of TofuOno, You Know
July 29, 2018
Story By: Ellise Kakazu | Photos by: Lawrence Tabudlo
When I was a child, I thought tofu came from outer space. With its pale complexion, cube-like shape and jiggly yet firm texture, the blocks of bean curd seemed so alien.
In fact, up until I hit my teen years, I refused to even nibble on a piece of it.
Boy, times have changed! Fast-forward a decade or so, and now I am fully embracing all types of tofu. Since tofu has been around for thousands of years — it was invented in China — one can find many adaptations in markets and restaurants. For starters, tofu now can be found in a variety of textures, ranging from soft to extra firm.
After doing some research on tofu, I found that consuming it might even be good for your health. Many sources say tofu packs iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and other beneficial vitamins and minerals within its small frame. It also is known to be a great source of protein, especially for vegetarians.
On the other end of the spectrum, some say eating too much of it could lead to unwanted health effects. But that honestly is the case for most foods these days like milk and eggs — some say it’s good while others say it’s bad.
With food and science in constant battle, I always keep my grandmother’s words of wisdom in mind, “as long as you eat in moderation.”
Remembering her piece of advice on this week’s Ono adventure, I decided to skip the heavy tofu-filled dishes and look for something light, refreshing and not so common — tofu pudding.
A NICE BALANCE
My quest to find tofu pudding led me to Yajima-ya Japanese and Local Cuisine, located on South King Street. From the outside, Yajima-ya looks like a building straight out of the Land of the Rising Sun, but what’s being served on the inside is quite different from what you would expect.
Yajima-ya’s extensive menu features many Western and local inspired dishes along with Japanese fare, so in Hawaii terms you could consider the eatery hapa or mixed.
“I wouldn’t call it a traditional Japanese place,” says general manager Miha Fukumasa. “(Yajima-ya) serves a mix of local and Japanese (cuisine).”
Prime examples of the restaurant’s hapa dishes are Rib-Eye Steak Wasabi, Garlic Ahi, Hamburger Steak Demi Sauce and the ever-popular Mushroom Chicken.
Intrigued by all of Yajima-ya’s mouthwatering dishes, I found it was quite hard to stay on mission. But thankfully, Fukumasa brought out the eatery’s Tofu Pudding with Hot Shizuoka Green Tea ($4.25) soon after my arrival, so my attention quickly was diverted.
One spoonful of the soft, almost custard-like pudding topped with homemade green tea syrup, is all it will take to catapult you into tofu heaven. And the hot cup of Shizuoka green tea served alongside the pudding provides a nice contrast to the cool dessert.
As a matcha enthusiast, I absolutely loved every bit of the green tea and tofu experience. But rest assured, if you are not a fan of green tea, you can request to swap the green tea syrup for a caramel syrup that tastes much like the beloved golden, sugary coating found atop creme brulee. I have to admit, I tried both versions during my visit — it was so good!
“We definitely eat tofu often (in Japan), but not as a dessert,” notes Fukumasa. “So this is something interesting.”
The tofu pudding has been on the menu since Yajima-ya Local and Japanese Cuisine first opened and has been very popular. Fukumasa notes there may be some new desserts coming up on the horizon, as the restaurant plans to unveil an updated menu in the near future. So keep an eye out for that, as well as the eatery’s seasonal dishes.
WORTH THE WAIT
On the hunt for tofu pudding, I also visited Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant to scoop up Silken Tofu w/Ginger Nectar ($3.65), a blissful bowl of silky smooth tofu that almost melts in your mouth.
According to general manager Gary Chan, it takes about three hours to obtain the desired texture. He also mentions the flavorful nectar that fills the bowl of tofu is made of honey and fresh ginger.
The tofu dessert is a traditional dish found in China, yet it is not easy to find at Chinese restaurants, as it requires patience and time, he adds.
Since it takes a while to perfect, the silken tofu is not available in the morning — guests only can order it afternoon, around 12:30 p.m. The eatery only makes a handful of batches a day, so the dessert is served on a “while supplies last” basis.
“Some people put soy sauce or chili sauce (on the tofu),” adds Chan.
Before you dive into the silken tofu, dine on some of Jade Dynasty’s dim sum offerings (available every day, 10:30 a.m-4 p.m.). A few must-try bites are Snow Mountain Char Siu Buns, Pan-fried Shrimp & Chive Buns and Steamed Shrimp & Pork Dumplings.
For entrees, Chan encourages guests to try a new, special item Stir-fried Nagaimo Asparagus and black Fungus, or tried-and-true favorites like Peking Duck with Buns and Braised Pork Rib in Home Made Sauce.
But really, no matter what you decide to order, you surely will leave satisfied and full.
With the discovery of two stellar tofu pudding renditions, I now can say this week’s mission is complete. So until we meet again, “May the force be with you,” as you explore and discover tasty, out of this world creations.