November 5, 2007

Amazing Kyoto!

More from Japan!

Todd Eberle, friend and photographer, joined us at the fabled Ryokan Hiiragiya in Kyoto.  At breakfast he wore his sleeping kimono and looked like a commanding shogun.


I found my favorite piece of table pottery thus far - a ruffled edged dish for fruit at the inn.


These are two sheaves of autumn rice tied with copper ribbon and adoring a sideboard in the lobby waiting room.


The next group of pictures exactly illustrate the immense variety one can find when one looks.  On the block where the ryokan is located, these amazing wood surfaces are in clear view as one walks down the street.  Texture, beauty, craftsmanship and wonderful woods exist everywhere in Kyoto.






The next group of photos were taken at an ancient tofu factory located on a street corner just a hundred yards from the inn's entrance.  The tofu made here happens to be the very best that I’ve ever tasted.  The process of making tofu is simple but care, cleanliness, attention to detail, and excellent raw ingredients are essential coupled with family-established techniques, creating both silky and cotton tofu.





These last photos show how yuba is made.  Yuba or soymilk skin is a staple in Kyoto cuisine.  Ground up soybeans are boiled, turned into thick milk, and then the milk is steamed in fabric-lined squares, evaporating, finally, leaving a crunchy, almost caramelized residue.




Here’s a little something you might like to know about tofu.

Tofu, also known as soybean curd or bean curd, is made by pressing curdled soymilk into cakes.  A staple of Asian cooking, it was first created in China around 200 BC.  Tofu is high in protein and calcium, and can be used in many dishes, from soups to desserts.  It has a mild, slightly nutty taste that blends well with other foods.  It also has the capability of easily absorbing the flavors of ingredients that are cooked with it.  Tofu goes especially well with strong-tasting garlic, curry, ginger, and soy sauce. 

When shopping for tofu, you’ll notice two basic varieties: regular and silken. Regular comes in soft, firm, and extra-firm.  For soups and sauces, choose soft tofu.  For frying and grilling, use firm and extra-firm.  Before cooking firm or extra-firm tofu, it’s a good idea to squeeze out as much water as possible.  To do this, cut the tofu to the desired size, then press the pieces for about 20 minutes between two baking sheets lined with plenty of paper towels and weighted with a heavy skillet.  Silken tofu, which has a custard-like texture, is ideal for puréed dishes, such as puddings and smoothies.