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A great, easy dish for a hot summer’s day is hiyayakko — chilled tofu with various toppings.

Hiyayakko has been popular since the Edo Period (1603-1868). It was so ubiquitous that “Tofu Hyakuchin,” a bestselling tofu cookbook published in 1782, says that “one need not describe hiyayakko since it is so well known.”

You can use either firm (momen) or soft (kinu) tofu, although my preference is to use the firmer momen variety. Whichever one you use, it must be fresh — ideally, you should eat it the day it’s bought. If you have to keep it for more than a day, put it in a container filled with fresh cold water, and change the water at least once a day. (But don’t keep tofu like this for more than a couple of days.) Drain the tofu well before adding the toppings.

Here are two hiyayakko that depart from the usual katsuobushi, shredded shiso, chopped green onion, grated wasabi or ginger plus soy sauce toppings. They can be served as main or side dishes, and make great drinking appetizers.

Tomato-avocado caprese hiyayakko

 

Serves 2

Cook: 10 mins.

 

• 2 medium tomatoes

• ⅛ teaspoon grated garlic

• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

• 1 teaspoon salt

• Black pepper

• 1 medium avocado

• 1 tablespoon lemon or yuzu juice

• Several basil leaves, torn up

• 1 block (about 350 grams) firm tofu, well-drained

 

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cut a shallow cross in the tomatoes and put them in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Take out, peel, deseed and dice into 1-centimeter pieces.

2. Combine the tomato, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix well and leave to marinate for at least five minutes.

3. Pit and peel the avocado and dice into 1-centimeter pieces. Add them to the bowl along with the lemon or yuzu juice and the basil leaves. Taste — it should be slightly salty.

4. Arrange the well-drained cold tofu on two plates with the tomato-avocado mixture spooned on top. Serve chilled. This is also delicious served on top of cold angel hair pasta or sōmen noodles.

 

Spicy meat-miso hiyayakko

 

Serves 2

 

Prep: 10 mins.; cook: 5 mins.

For the sauce:

• 1 tablespoon sesame oil

• 200 grams ground pork or beef

• 1-centimeter-long piece of ginger, finely minced

• 1 small red chili pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips

• 1 10-centimeter-long piece of green onion, finely minced

• 1 tablespoon sake

• 2 tablespoons red miso

• ½ tablespoon soy sauce

• 1 tablespoon water

 

• 1 block (about 350 grams) firm tofu, well-drained

• 1 10-centimeter-long piece of green onion, cut into thin strips

• ¼ small cucumber, cut into thin strips

• A few slices of red chili pepper

 

1. Heat up the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Stir-fry the meat until it changes color. Add the ginger, chili pepper and green onion and stir-fry for a few more minutes. Add the sake and stir until the liquid has evaporated.

2. Mix the miso, soy sauce and water in a bowl until dissolved. Add to the frying pan and stir for a few seconds, then turn off the heat.

3. Arrange the well-drained cold tofu on two plates and spoon over the meat-miso sauce. Top with the garnishes.

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