It is said that one of the key differences between the East and the West is the way things are perceived and subsequently named. Without denying the importance of appearances in the West, in Japan, the way that something looks is often more important than what it actually comprises — and this is often reflected in its name.

This is certainly true of tofu, and the way the word is used in Japanese and in English. In Japan, anything that is shaped like tofu, textured similarly or served in a like manner is referred to as tofu. Whether the item contains soybean or not (and even though the characters that comprise tofu read "fermented beans"), if it fits the outward appearance, it is called tofu. Tamago-dofu (egg tofu) and goma-dofu (sesame tofu) are classic examples of this. One is made with just eggs and stock, the other with sesame paste and a starch thickener.

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Agedashi-dofu (deep-fried tofu in broth)