Anyone living on Okinawa should not miss shima dofu

Category: [ Gourmet ]

By Yuka Arata

October 2nd is a day in Japan dedicated to tofu, because a character meaning 10 (October is the 10th month of the year) can be pronounced “to”, and likewise, 2 can be pronounced “fu” so, the Japan Tofu Association declared Oct. 2 as the “Tofu Day” in 1993.

Tofu from various makers on display at a local supermarket.
Tofu from various makers on display at a local supermarket.

There are various kinds of tofu in Japan, which differ from area to area. But roughly, tofu can be divided into two types. One is smooth “kinugoshi dofu” and the other is “momen dofu” which is much firmer type tofu. Of course the difference is not only in the firmness but also how they are made.

Tofu is basically made from soybean milk, and momen dofu is made covering the milk with a cotton cloth and squeezing out water. That’s the reason why it’s harder and firmer than kinugoshi dofu, from which water is not squeezed out.

Typical half-block of shima dofu.
Typical half-block of shima dofu.

Shima dofu, which means ‘island tofu’ and is made mostly in Okinawa, is similar to momen dofu, but its taste and recipe are different. Tofu in mainland Japan is made boiling soybean milk first and squeezing water out after it is boiled, but in Okinawa, water is squeezed out first and the tofu is then boiled. Squeezing water out from raw soymilk before boiling results in shima dofu having 1.3 times higher protein content than tofu made in mainland. It also has much less calories while having higher nutrition value.

Shima dofu blocks are also much larger and heavier than mainland tofu blocks. Shima dofu blocks in Okinawa weigh about 1kg a piece, while a typical block of tofu in mainland weighs only 400 grams.

Tofu sold at supermarkets is usually half size of one block, because it’s deemed to be a proper size for a typical family these days when families in general are much smaller than in old times.

Also, tofu in mainland is sold cooled down in a refrigerator, but Okinawan shima dofu is traditionally sold hot. Although you likely will see cold packed Okinawan tofu in supermarkets nowadays, each supermarket still buys hot tofu blocks from producers, and some even post a time schedule when hot tofu will arrive.

A bowl of yushidofu is ready to eat with a little garnish.
A bowl of yushidofu is ready to eat with a little garnish.

One more special Okinawan tofu is called “yushi dofu” that is shima dofu collected before it firms up. It’s very fluffy, sold almost soup-like in watertight plastic containers, and much loved by Okinawan people since ancient times. Eating yushi dofu, one needs just add salt or soy sauce, and drink it as a soup perhaps adding chopped green onions as garnish. Some people eat it with Okinawa soba noodles, too.

Most of housewives on Okinawa have their preferred tofu maker they patronize, because the taste of each producer is a little different. That’s also the reason why supermarkets stock an assortment of tofu from several different makers of shima dofu.

Tofu also includes bittern ingredients, and its taste is a bit salty. You can enhance the taste by adding different sauces. Shima dofu is definitely something one should not miss while living on Okinawa.

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