The culinary tradition of shōjin ryōri, a vegetarian cuisine that arose due to the dietary restrictions of Zen Buddhist monks, as well as prolonged periods in Japanese history in which eating meat was discouraged or outlawed, has left the country with a variety of vegetable-based dishes that act as sources of protein.

An ingredient in one such dish is Kōya dōfu (freeze-dried tofu also known as kōri dōfu). Dating back to at least the Kamakura Period (1192-1333), Kōya dōfu was traditionally made by slicing firm tofu, placing it in rows on boxes lined with straw and letting it sit outside during freezing temperatures during the winter. The frozen tofu was then hung up out of the sun to dry. Unlike fresh tofu, which goes off very quickly, Kōya dōfu can be kept in a cool, dry place without refrigeration for a considerable amount of time.

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