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Tokyo Dreaming and Hiyayakko

August 12, 2010 · 23 comments

in Gluten Free,Japan,Mains,Summer,Vegetarian

hiyayakko picture

One of the things I loved about living in Tokyo were the thriving businesses run by small shop-keepers: a tiny stationer’s shop wedged between the jeweller’s and a ramen stand, the yaki-imo man driving around in his pick-up truck with a brazier on the back calling out to all and sundry to get his sweet potatoes while they were steaming hot (yaki-imooooo,!), shops selling nothing but seaweed and the local tofu shop which was no more than a hole in the wall.

I think these businesses survive despite the inevitable onslaught of convenience stores and supermarkets for several reasons, one being that the Japanese mania for terroir goes beyond even that of the French and so specialty shops have a loyal clientele and the second, more negative perhaps, is that most women with children tend to be housewives or part-time workers whether they like it or not and therefore have the time to shop at a variety of stores rather than a one-stop shop.

silken tofu picture

Tofu, despite its sometimes tasteless and suspiciously firm Western vegetarian incarnations, is lovely. When it is very fresh it has a creaminess that calls for nothing more than a grating of ginger, a sprinkling of spring onions and a splash of shoyu, a dish which is called hiyayakko. Since there (rather surprisingly) don’t seem to be any small tofu purveyors where I live in Austria, let alone a choice of more than two kinds (firm or cotton pressed and silken) I was reduced one day to using the stuff one can buy in a plastic shrink wrapped packet for hiyayakko.

It was sort of like eating a Snickers when you want a Belgian truffle but it hit the spot, sort of.

Do you live in a small shops or superstore kind of place?


This is definitely one of those recipes that require you use the best of everything since there are only 4 ingredients but clearly I have no idea how to take my own advice.

A piece of the best silken tofu you can get your hands on, well chilled

A teaspoon of finely grated fresh ginger

A spring onion, finely sliced

2 tablespoons shoyu

1 teaspoon bonito flakes (optional)

Top the tofu with the ingredients and serve cold.

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Yu August 13, 2010 at 3:46 am

Hiyayakko for life. Its so easy to make, and its so delicious. Sometimes my breakfast is just this, seaweed and rice, when I’m too lazy to make anything else.

Su-Lin August 12, 2010 at 11:47 pm

I had no idea there was a name for this dish! My mother taught me the same but it was served hot and instead of shoyu, it was oyster sauce. Hmm… perhaps it’s not exactly the same dish but the idea is kinda there!

I have a superstore (kinda super, more like mediocre) near where I live but a few small shops too – I try to use a balance of both.

Sasa August 18, 2010 at 10:10 am

In winter, I make a hot one with dashi and shoyu, and a few bonito flakes but oyster sauce I haven’t tried, sounds good.

Couscous & Consciousness August 13, 2010 at 3:21 am

Hey Sasa, great to see you back too – thanks for stopping by. I have to confess to being one of those people who finds tofu just a bit too scarey – but then I’ve obviously never eaten the “real deal”. You sure make it look pretty good.

AML August 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm

This looks awesome. Definitely a meal of convenience. After work…this hits the spot. Unfortunately, the availability in Denver for high quality Japanese ingredients is shit. I’m sure, much like Austria. The funny thing…this is basically what my entire diet has morphed into. Or some variation of this. Maybe with mirin. Maybe nam pla. Everyday that goes by, the more grossed out I get with meat. Therefore, I have now resorted to eating a diet consisting of tofu, ginger, scallions, edamame, udon, togarashi, bonito, and kombu. My skills in preparing authentic Japanese food are nil. Do more posts on good Japanese chow. Between my bastardized, incestual versions of Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai…default being Okonomiyaki, I need some fresh ideas. Love to hear ‘em.

Sasa August 18, 2010 at 10:16 am

Yes suh, will add more as time goes on…If you go to the bottom of the page and look at the footer it says “search by category” and if you click on Japan, there are 2 pages of recipes there too, some might take your fancy.

Marietta August 13, 2010 at 11:10 am

:) When I am really really tired and just want to eat something quick, I eat something similar..
Tofu with katsuobushi on top and some ginger and soya sauce on top… I also make some gohan and sometimes I make an egg and put some soya sauce on top of th egg as well and that’s it… If I am not DEAD tired I also manage to cut some spring onions and serve them on top of the tofu as well…

I think for summer… somen, this and curry rice are like the top 3 dishes to eat…

catty August 13, 2010 at 11:38 pm

i think I definitely live in a supermarket kind of place, whaddaya think?? haha.. anyway dont be knocking snickers. my current favourite ice cream is the snickers ice cream bar!!

Sasa August 18, 2010 at 10:18 am

Oh, I love Snickers too, but when you crave a truffle, it doesn’t cut the mustard. Vice versa too though.

Anna Johnston August 14, 2010 at 1:26 am

OK. You’ve totally convinced me with this post. I’ve obviously never tasted the real deal and will if I ever chance upon it in my travels. I’m not the greatest fan of Tofu but I think that’s because I’m tasting the common garden variety one!
I am a bit of a speciality shot sort of gal yes, would travel across town to find shops that sell superior produce but I’m lucky to live a block away from most of my faves.

Alessandra August 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

THIS is one of my favourite ways to eat tofu!!! It is true, you need to find the right tofu maker (or at least the right shop which sells it), to get the really fresh and soft and delicate tofu… a bit like finding the right mozzarella :-) and if we are not in Japan…well… I also get the pre-packed imported tofu when I can…and probably I use more soy sauce, ginger and chopped spring onions that I would have done in Japan…but it still taste great because most of the other kinds of fresh tofu I can find in NZ are Chinese style and they are too ‘hard’, and they taste completely different…not suitable to be eaten nama.

Sasa August 18, 2010 at 10:19 am

Even the stuff from the tofu shop?

Old Cow August 14, 2010 at 1:51 pm


Thank you for visiting my blog. It is a true delight to kind sorta “meet” you.
I love hiyayakko. I wish that I got get hold of some fresh myoga to whack on top here in London. Sometimes we do a little east meets west thing and top the tofu with finely chopped tomtato, miso, QP and negi!

Thank you for blogging about this. I am now off to read the rest of your blog :)

I live in Dalston so we have the big supermarket as well as a host of ethnic shops which are a delight to mosey around in.

Maria @ ScandiFoodie August 15, 2010 at 10:13 pm

I love tofu, and this is exactly how my bf would have his tofu too!

Katie@Cozydelicious August 16, 2010 at 2:19 am

So funny that you are talking about this right now! I live in a place where we have only huge chain stores. But in 2 weeks I am moving downtown, to a neighborhhod that has only teeny tiny specialty shops (down the street from a butcher – a real butcher shop that has been owned by the same family for 3 generations!). I can’t wait!

maameemoomoo August 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

I often whip up this dish.. apart from spring onions, i’d add a few tbsp of floss (fish/chicken/pork floss). Totally awesome with a bowl of rice ;)

Thanks for dropping by earlier.. love your lovely blog!

Sasa August 18, 2010 at 10:21 am

I use bonito flakes sometimes too, thanks for reminding me, I’ll put it in as an option.

SMITH BITES August 17, 2010 at 2:29 am

SASA!!! SO HAPPY YOU’RE BACK!!! How was your holiday? Did you eat gelato? Affogato? I’m just learning to embrace tofu – have a mind block about it for some reason. But I find that I enjoy it marinated, then baked and then dipped in a peanut sc of sorts – sort of Thai? Maybe it’s because all we have here is the packaged, shrink-wrapped, suspicious looking stuff – have never, ever eaten something fresh like you’ve described. Am dying to hear all about your holiday!

PS As for keeping love alive, my only piece of advice? Be with your best friend – it’s that simple. The one you want to spend your time with, share secrets with, tell exciting news to – be with your best friend and you will always be in love! xo

amber August 19, 2010 at 3:09 am

I’m sad, Sasa — there is absolutely no way I would be able to find a decent piece of tofu to make this. I hope that, eventually, I will live somewhere that offers greater access to traditional Japanese cooking ingredients. Alas, Toowoomba is not this place! We have one fantastic deli, which stocks a lot of artisan, local, and European products. I hope its popularity catches on and more retailers seek to provide this sort of produce and food-buying experience for customers. I think Australia is on the cusp of embracing small and fresh and eschewing our established supermarket culture… but it will be a while yet before it becomes widespread instead of just a novelty.

beebs August 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

Superstore, superstore!!! i miss Japanese food markets.
thanks for the link ;)…have been meaning to tell you that.

Camille September 14, 2010 at 8:17 am

Hi! I just wanted to say that you take gorgeous pictures of your delicious food. My grandmother (who is Japanese) has made this traditional dish for as long as I can remember. It is so good. Very simple, light, tasty, and Japanese.

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