Tofu workshop

I am so happy that I found the lovely Atelier-Cafe in Kamakura, a lovely group that offers workshops on food and culture, particularly vegan cuisine and shojin ryori.

We went along for a party-style tofu workshop, which, in a word, was excellent.

The first part of the workshop included a lecture on the tofu-making process. Tofu essentially has just three ingredients: soy beans, water, and a coagulant, usually nigari (magnesium chloride, produced from seawater). However, the variation in different types and quantities of the ingredients, as well as the temperatures and specific steps in the process lead to significant differences in the outcome.

We got to a sample a special selection of tofu from across Japan, both kinu (silken) and momen (cotton or firmer). There were two more to the right that didn’t fit in this photo—so a great variety was on offer!

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The next part of the workshop included a demonstration of tofu cuisine in action, showing unique recipes to make western-style dishes with tofu. Everything was gluten-free and vegan (no eggs or dairy), for maximum enjoyment by almost anyone (*almost*, because one dish had peanuts, and of course anyone with a soy allergy would be out of luck).

After the demonstration, we got to EAT! and discuss the awesomeness of tofu and vegan cooking. The photo below shows the spread.

The top left of the table has “crisps” made from abura-age (fried tofu sheets) and tofu-hummus, made only from tofu, tahini, and spices (and it totally tasted like hummus).

The back middle is the most impressive dish, which was like a Spanish omelette, with potatoes, onions, tofu, soy milk, rice flour, and spices. Gorgeous, and so tasty.

The back right isn’t very visible, but it was a lovely Thai-inspired salad with red onions, cucumbers, and atsuage-tofu (tofu fried around the edges) with a gentle chili sauce and peanuts.

The dish being laid out at the right of the photo is a feta and olive salad, except that the feta is tofu (momen-dofu) that was prepared by sprinkling salt, and then dressed with herbs, olive oil, and olives.

At the front is the “sandwich” station, with sandwich pockets made from fried tofu sheets, veggies, rice, and “egg salad” made with cumin, tofu, and dill (and probably some other stuff, but I forget).

There was also a black sesame mousse-like dessert (ok, I had two) and baked wafers made from okara (the fluffy tofu matter leftover from the tofu-making process).

The food was all amazingly delicious. And the learning aspect was also great, both in terms of traditional processes as well as versatile recipes and conversations about good food (ethically and nutritionally). Atelier-Cafe, I will be back for more.

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