As a whole, Japan is not very vegetarian-friendly. Dashi, made with dried bonito shavings, is omnipresent and veggie dishes on most menus will have some sort of fish in it, if only the broth. If you're a pescetarian, you're in heaven, but if you're vegan or vegetarian, I'm not going to be the best person to tell you how to navigate Japan and I recommend finding a blog that specializes in both Japan and veganism. I ate things in Japan that I'm still not quite sure what I ate, so I'm not going to claim any sort of authority on either subject. I normally write about Japanese American food!
Yudofu is one of Kyoto's most popular shojin ryori dishes. Fresh tofu, sometimes made specially at the restaurant, is served in a hot pot and served simply to highlight the freshness of the tofu. Even with store bought tofu, you can really appreciate the nuttiness of the soybean curd, the silkiness of the texture, and appreciate how well the simple dipping sauce adds a savoriness and brings out the natural umami of the tofu.
|My mini donabe!|
Yuzu kosho isn't exactly subtle or traditional to shojin ryori, but I love it to add a punch to this dish. I fly in the face of tradition, and would make a horrible monk, let's be honest.
4 cups of tepid water
2 3"x3" pieces of kombu
1 block of soft tofu
1/4 cup shoyu
2 tbs kombu dashi reserved from above
2 tbs mirin
chopped green onions
Place the water and kombu in a donburi or medium saucepan. Soak the kombu for 2 hours, then fish out and discard. This will give you kombu dashi. You can make this ahead of time or even soak overnight for more body to the dashi, or heat gently on low heat for 20 minutes (do not simmer!) but I really recommend the long soak. Reserve 2 tbs for the dipping sauce, and heat the rest on medium-high heat until it boils. Cut the tofu into fourths and place in the kombu dashi and simmer until heated through. If you're not concerned with making this vegan, please feel free to substitute regular dashi instead of kombu dashi.
Meanwhile, prep the dipping sauce by mixing the reserved kombu dashi with shoyu and mirin. Heat over low heat until warmed through, then set aside. This can be done in advance and kept in the fridge.
To serve: bring the hot pot to the table and serve a chunk of tofu and a saucer of the dipping sauce. I like to either plunk the tofu directly in the bowl or pour the sauce on top. Garnish with grated daikon and chopped green onions, as well as some yuzu kosho if you're feeling spicy.