Beyond Vegan Foie Gras: Tasting Tofu Misozuke (Miso Marinated Tofu)

Have you heard of tofu misozuke, i.e. miso marinated tofu? It's been called "vegan cheese," "vegan butter," even "vegan foie gras." While I suppose there's some (delicious) truth in those statements, I think tofu misozuke is amazing stuff on its own, without all the animal-product based comparisons. Just what is tofu misozuke and what can you do with it? Read on for more information.

Tofu misozuke is a centuries-old method wherein tofu is slathered in miso, then wrapped in cloth or konbu (a form of seaweed) and left to sit for a while, usually around two weeks but also two months or longer. The miso penetrates the tofu, the enzymes slowly breaking it down until a rich, paté-like texture is achieved. The resulting tofu is traditionally served straight up with sake, where small amounts are eaten between sips. Tofu misozuke originated in the Fukuoka district in Japan where today it's considered a delicacy and difficult to find.

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But what does it taste like? Again, the texture is rich and creamy with an animal fat-like silkiness. While I don't care for the foie gras comparison, I can understand why it's made. The taste is reminiscent of miso, tangy and salty and rich in umami, with a touch of sweetness. There is a cheese-like quality to tofu misozuke and, in fact, you will most likely find it stocked at cheese counters. It is delicious stuff and well worth seeking out.

Like an aged blue cheese, it pairs really well with wine and sake, as previously mentioned. It can also be slathered on a cracker or bread, or on vegetables. I like it straight up, accompanied by a tangy pickle or thin sliced radish.

If it's so rare in its country of origin, how was it possible that I could walk to my local cheese shop in Oakland, California and get my hands on a package? Interestingly, we have a Vietnamese-American couple to thank for bringing this delicacy to the USA. Dang Vu and Oanh Nguyen first tasted tofu misozuke in Japan but could not find it once they returned home to California, so they decided to see if they could make it on their own. After an extensive search, they found one modern recipe and had a 18th-century one translated for them. Several months of experimenting ensued, with many setbacks and mistakes. They did finally succeed and their company Rau On was formed. The method they settled on uses miso and tofu, as well as a touch of sake and sugar.

For more information on tofu misozuke, visit the Rau Om website. This interview with Andrea Nguyen is also very informative and well worth reading.

Tofu misozuke can be found at a few select places in the Bay Area. (I purchased my mine at Sacred Wheel Cheese in Oakland.) You can also order it directly from Rau Om for $7.00 per 2.5 oz package plus shipping. They also sell a 5 oz package for $13.00

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(Image: Dana Velden and Andrea Nguyen)

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