We’ve been eating a helluva lot of cold silken tofu lately! Hiyayakko aka cold cubed tofu (冷奴) is a simple, quick and incredibly delicious Japanese summer dish. It has saved many a sweaty days around our household this summer! It’s fast and easy to prepare and can be modified to a lot of tastes. During this record breaking heat wave I’ve been very lazy to cook anything and so, we’ve ended up with hiyayakko on our plate almost daily. In fact, I think I’ll go make myself another plate right now!
Hiyaykko – cold cubed tofu
Hiyayakko (hiyakko, yakko-dōfu) means literally cold cubed tofu. Hiya means “cold” and yakko refers to the servants of the samurais during the Edo period. Apparently they wore vests decorated with cubic shapes … and somehow yakko then became to refer cutting into cubes. I’m not quite sure, since the sources I’ve found have been giving me a bit of a different info… but in any case, what an interesting story!
At its simplest, this dish is made with ingredients counted by the fingers of one hand. However, you wouldn’t believe it from the amount of flavor! I do admit to being apprehensive at first. I mean, how could cold silken tofu with just a few garnishes be anything special? But alas, I should obviously have known better. Why would millions and billions of people eat this every summer if it wasn’t special? 😀 The cold silky soft tofu is the most refreshing sensation, and a drizzle of good soy sauce, ponzu or mentsuyu supports the delicate flavor so well. Most days I love to keep my plate minimal, adding just some grated ginger, scallions and katsuobushi. But sometimes I load up my plate with all kinds of veggies too! Be it simple or more loaded with stuff, cold silken tofu has become my ultimate go to on a sweaty steamy hot day … And those seem to be the only kind of days this summer.
Hiyaykko is made with soft and delicate silken tofu. In Japan this kind of tofu is called kinugoshi tofu and there are different versions of it – some extremely soft, some more jelly-like. Since silken tofu has so much water content compared to the hard tofu (momen tofu), it needs to be drained before making hiyayakko. If the tofu is very delicate, it’s easiest to do by taking of the top of the packaging only. Then cover the surface with kitchen towel and flip the tofu very carefully around to drain. In its container it will better hold it’s shape! After draining all that’s left to do is to add the garnishes and drizzle with sauce… And pling, hiyayakko is done!
I’ve been testing all silken tofus I’ve found here in Helsinki, and so far the best have been the kinds that are on the firmer side. But only photography-wise 😀 It’s the taste that matters, right? If you can get your hands on super fresh silken tofu, I’d say go for it! And even better if you make it yourself … which I won’t even dream of during these exhausting summer days. But, although hiyayakko is very much a summer dish, I might take it with me to the winter months if I ever end up making my own tofu!
Cold tofu, toppings, sauce… done!
Hiyayakko is usually topped off with scallions, katsuobushi and freshly grated ginger. Other popular toppings include wasabi, umeboshi, japanese mustard, shiso, okra, daikon and yuzu. The sauce is added to the cold tofu at the end. It can be soy sauce (and about the type: I bet everyone has their own favorite), ponzu or mentsuyu. I personally love to go with mentsuyu, which is a japanese soup/dipping base packed with umami! It has all the flavors of dashi (kombu, katsuobushi and often dried shiitake too) + soy sauce, mirin and sake. Since it usually includes katsubushi (dried bonito aka fish), mentsuyu is not suitable for vegans and vegetarians. Vegan mentsuyu does exists, but at least here in Finland it hasn’t crossed my way! You can read more about mentsuyu from Just One Cookbook + find a recipe for vegan mentsuyu here!
What I’ve gathered, hiyayakko is one of those dishes that changes from home to home and from izakaya to izakaya. You can add what you like on top, from fresh or preserved veggies to fish to even ham! My favorite toppings have lately been cucumber, fresh corn and radishes. Plus lots of garlic scapes!!!
Cold silken tofu in the style of hiyaykko
- kitchen towel
- 300 g silken tofu
- mentsuyu* / ponzu / soy sauce (to taste)
- fresh ginger (to taste)
- 1 scallion / small white onion with greens attached
- 2-3 tsp sesame seeds
- katsuobushi* / roasted nori (to taste)
- fresh corn / cucumber / tomato / kimchi / radishes... (to taste)
- japanese mustard / umeboshi / yuzukosho... (to taste)
- I've understood that Hiyaykko is usually served as a side dish in Japan, but we usually eat it as a snack or a very light lunch. Especially when I add a load of veggies, the dish turns into a very refreshing summer lunch!
- In our household of two adults, 300g of silken tofu serves two (or one if I'm by myself and want lunch). I usually add around a tablespoon of mentsuyu on my plate, but depending what you're using and how much flavor you want, add as much or as little as you like. Especially with soy sauces the saltiness varies a lot, so it's always better to add a little at first and then go in with more 🙂
- FYI: If you have a vegan or vegetarian at your table, remember that store bought mentsuyu usually contains fish! You can serve the hiyaykko with roasted nori seaweed instead of katsuobushi flakes.
- If you notice water accumulating on the bottom of the plate before adding the sauce, you can still carefully tilt the plate to remove water before serving!
- Remove the lid of the tofu package. Keep tofu in the package and put a kitchen towel on top. Carefully flip the package around and leave the tofu to drain while you prepare the toppings.
- Thinly slice scallion / onion with it's greens. Chop your choice of veggies to bite sized pieces if using.
- Carefully turn the tofu around again and remove the kitchen towel. Cut the tofu into cubes (if there's two of us eating I just cut it in half). Again very carefully put the tofu pieces on plates.
- Peel and grate some ginger on top of each cube. I usually add about a teaspoon. Garnish with scallions/onion, sesame seeds, katsuobushi or nori and your choice of veg if using.
- Drizzle some soy sauce, ponzu or mentsuyu on tofu right before serving. Done!