Sesame Tofu

gomatofu
Sesame TofuWilliam Hereford

Taking shortcuts is technically counter to the point of cooking shojin ryori, or Japanese temple cuisine, as the word shojin means “earnest effort.” No dish demonstrates the monk’s dedication to hard work like gomatofu, a tofu lookalike made using ground sesame that’s served as an appetizer. The most earnest cooks use unhulled, untoasted sesame seeds, which are the hardest to grind into a paste and extract flavor from (the monks soak them, then grind them for up to an hour by hand to do so). But if you prefer to go the convenience route, use toasted hulled seeds and a high-powered blender. Kuzu root, common in Asian kitchens, is often sold dried and ground into a starch that can be used as a thickener or to add shine and body to soups and other dishes (it’s often labeled kuzu root powder or kuzuko). The top-of-the-line variety is called Yoshino-Kuzu and is made from wild mountain roots near Kyoto.