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Leave tofu and miso alone for a few months and they make magic.
Over time the miso works at the proteins in the tofu, breaking down its bland bounce into a dense cream, sticky as a soft, ripe cheese and just as flavorful. Tofu misozuke is complex and savory, rich with umami, and hits some sweet, high notes.
It’s hard to believe this meaty butter is tofu. Unlike fresh tofu, which often functions as a conduit for other flavors, or a quiet lesson in textural appreciation, the miso-cured tofu makes a huge impression in tiny doses.
That’s why it’s traditionally eaten plain between sips of sake (you’ll get it when you peel away the paper wrapping and lick the stuff off your fingers). But you can also spread it on warm toast, dip raw vegetables straight in, and drop a little over rice and wilted greens to make it instantly luxurious.
Husband-and-wife team Dang Vu and Oanh Nguyen met as graduate students and fell hard for tofu misozuke on a visit to Japan, where they tasted it for the first time. Back home in the U.S., they realized this esoteric aged tofu was near impossible to find, and the couple spent three years recreating it at home.
Vu and Nguyen enlisted friends to translate Medieval Japanese texts and scoured Japanese cookbooks to understand the process. Rau Om, their small food company, now produces a wonderful two-month-aged tofu mizosuke in a commercial kitchen just outside of San Francisco, closely following the way it was made on the northern shore of Kyosho in the 13th century.
Vu pointed out that because the creaminess of the tofu isn’t fat-based, there’s no real melting when it’s heated — he’s found success stuffing squash blossoms and grilling them, though less so far with deep frying.
Experiment away! And remember you can’t fail if you go at your block of tofu misozuke simply, with a spoon.
Available at Fairway Market, 240 East 86th Street and 2127 Broadway, $7