Hiyayakko – Japanese Cold Tofu Salad

Our “Tofu Salad”  is known in Japan as Hiyayakko (“cold tofu”).  While this traditional Japanese dish is usually served during the warm summer months , we certainly think it is good enough to serve year ’round. This dish is also one of the few we serve which is considered Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) rather than Yoshoku  (Japanese cuisine derived from a foreign influence),  although the minced green pepper and radishes topping certainly reflects modern Japanese tastes.

Modern historians believe the tofu-making technique was introduced to Japan from China (by Japanese Buddhist monks who visited China or by Chinese Buddhists who went to teach in Japan) sometime between AD 900 and AD 1100.  The first Japanese to eat tofu were probably Buddhist monks and priests and the court nobility. As Japanese Buddhism spread throughout the country, the major Kamakura Zen temples opened Buddhist vegetarian restaurants, including tofu on the menus. Eventually the commoners opened tofu shops in the capital cities of Kamakura and Kyoto, and from there tofu cuisine spread to the countryside. Even today, many of Japan’s best known centers of tofu cuisine are located in or near major temples.

Today in Japan, many people enjoy Hiyayakko almost every day in the summer. Toppings vary depending on personal choice and there is no one “official” recipe. Traditional topping options may include finely chopped green onion, grated fresh ginger,bonito flakes, finely julienned shiso , toasted sesame seeds, and red chili powder. Modern versions may include cucumbers, tomatoes, chopped ham, corn, and hot chili oil.

Our version of Hiyayakko features sliced firm tofu sprinkled with a mixture of fresh diced bell pepper, onion and radish, garnished with tangy daikon sprouts and drizzled with our own sweet soy vinaigrette.  Light and refreshing and vegan too!