I am a very lucky woman. My husband cooks for me nearly every day, and we usually eat dishes drawn from “homestyle” Japanese cuisine.
This is the first recipe that my husband tried from a beautiful shōjin ryōri cookbook called The Enlightened Kitchen by Mari Fujii (limited preview on Amazon). Shojin ryori is the traditional cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks and does not include any animal products (although this book calls for yogurt in one dish). The diet has been explained with the principle that the monks do not eat anything “that flees when chased.” The food is based on seasonal vegetables and spices that nourish the body in accordance with the season: to warm, cool, or fortify against the cold.
The author’s expertise in temple cuisine is due to being married to a Buddhist monk (convenient!) in Kamakura, an ancient city that we visited during a trip to Japan in 2008. For a lovely review of the book, visit Maki at the Just Hungry blog.
I was surprised that many of the recipes involve frying food and frequently call for copious amounts of sesame oil, maple syrup, and peanut butter. In other words, the dishes are not all necessarily low-calorie. Other staples include miso (soybean paste), kombu (a type of seaweed), and kanten (agar-agar powder).
We cheated a little on the concept of shojin cuisine by eating a dish intended for another season. According to the book, this “nutritious tofu is served with a sauce of fall mushrooms, a dish to warm the body as the days grow cooler.” Oh, well, it was delicious in summer as well.
As the name suggests, this dish is simply boiled tofu topped with a mushroom sauce. Simple instructions follow.
The base for the sauce is kombu. My husband made a special trip to get Japanese kombu at Miyamoto Foods in Westmount, a place off our usual path. A single strip of dried kombu was needed for this recipe, and it was soaked in water for a few hours beforehand to make the stock.
1 block silken tofu (400 grams)
50 g mushrooms, assorted types (e.g., shitake, button, shimeji) (1 3/4 ounces)
40 g carrots (julienned) (1 1/4 ounces)
400 ml konbu stock (1 2/3 cups)
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp water
Chopped raw green onions (garnish)
The tofu is simply cut into four chunks, boiled in plain water, and drained.
To prepare the sauce:
1. Bring kombu stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and salt to a boil in a frying pan or pot.
2. Add thinly sliced mushrooms and carrots and simmer for a few minutes.
3. Lower the heat and mix the cornstarch slowly into the liquid to thicken the sauce.
4. Pour the sauce over the tofu.
The recipe recommends garnishing the tofu with strips of blanched green beans, but we used chopped raw green onions instead.
Final judgment: simple, satisfying, and extremely yummy.
The next day, I ate the leftover sauce poured over rice. I had packed my lunch container the night before, and by the time I ate it, the sauce had soaked into the rice, softening the texture and adding a rich flavour.
- Check out Megan’s bio and a link to her food blog on the Contributors page