Hiyayakko (冷奴 hiya yakko) is a traditional chilled Japanese tofu salad recipe perfect for a hot summer day when you want something delicious without heating up the kitchen. At its heart, Hiyayakko is a velvety block of cold silken tofu with a texture reminiscent of a tender egg custard with a subtle nutty sweetness. A smoky whisper of katsuobushi, the zing of freshly chopped scallions, and the contrasting warmth of grated ginger transform the delicate tofu with a balance of tastes, textures, and temperatures with minimal fuss. The final flourish is a side of soy sauce, which allows your diners to tailor the dish to suit their palate.
Why This Recipe Works?
- Using high-quality silken tofu is the key to this dish.
- Lightly salting and draining the tofu partially seasons it while preventing it from getting watery.
- While this Hiyayakko recipe is a traditional way of serving Japanese cold tofu, the sky's the limit with toppings and condiments, so enlist your creativity and use the ingredients you have on hand.
- Silken tofu - Tofu can be made one of two ways. Momen tofu (木綿豆腐) is produced by curdling soy milk with coagulant and pressing the curds into a mold - this process makes firm tofu. Making kinugoshi tofu (絹ごし豆腐) involves mixing soy milk with coagulant and gently steaming it in a mold. This produces silken tofu, which has a luxuriously smooth texture that melts in your mouth like custard. As the star of this Hiyayakko recipe, the quality of your tofu can make or break the dish. You want a silken tofu that's soft and creamy with a subtle nutty flavor that's not overpowered by the flavor of soybeans. In the US, I like the "soft tofu" produced by House Foods (or better yet their "Extra Soft Tofu"). It's worth noting, however, that labels can be misleading as some brands label softer versions of the curd-based tofu as 'soft.'
- Salt: A pinch of salt seasons the tofu subtly while drawing out excess water, keeping our dish from becoming watery.
- Katsuobushi: Katsuobushi (a.k.a. bonito flakes) are smoked, dried and fermented skipjack tuna flakes that add extra dimension to our dish. Its smoky, umami-rich flavor contrasts beautifully with the cool, creamy tofu. If you can't find katsuobushi, a sprinkle of smoked salt can give you a similar effect.
- Scallion: Freshly chopped scallions add a vibrant color and a mild, oniony bite that brings some complexity to this dish. You could also use other green herbs such as basil, shiso, or mint.
- Ginger: Freshly grated ginger brings warmth, creating a beautiful contrast with the cool tofu. Wasabi is another great option here.
- Soy sauce: To season this tofu salad, a drizzle of soy sauce not only seasons the dish, it elevates the umami while tying the components together. Tamari can be used as a gluten-free alternative, or if you're looking for a different flavor profile, consider a light drizzle of ponzu for a citrusy twist.
How to Make Hiyayakko
Start by draining the tofu in its container and inverting it onto your hand. Silken tofu is very delicate so be careful here or it will turn to mush. Next you want to line a plate with a few layers of paper towels, and set the tofu on top.
Now cut the tofu into four blocks and sprinkle the top evenly with the salt. The salt does two things. First, it draws out additional moisture from the tofu, which concentrates its flavors while preventing the dish from getting watery. Second, it begins the seasoning process. Ideally, you'll want to cover and chill your salted tofu in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
When it's time to serve your Hiyayakko, arrange your cold tofu blocks on small plates. Then, sprinkle on the katsuobushi and chopped scallions. Finish each block of chilled tofu with a mound of grated ginger in the center.
Serve your tofu salad with a side of soy sauce.
Other Ways to Serve Hiyayakko
This classic Hiyayakko recipe is the traditional combination of toppings, but don't let this limit your creativity. Creamy silken tofu is a delightful canvas to showcase a wide range of flavors. Here are some variations on this protein rich dish to get your creative juices flowing:
Natto Kimchi - For a fermented food lover's delight, top your tofu with natto (fermented soybeans) mixed with minced kimchi for a slick and spicy treat.
Caprese Salad Style - Dice up a ripe tomato and top with a chiffonade of basil, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a sprinkle of sea salt for an Italian-inspired Hiyayakko. This one is also vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Ume Shiso - Another refreshing possibility is to top the cold tofu dish with a mound of grated daikon radish which has been lightly squeezed of extra water along with minced umeboshi (pickled plum), chopped green shiso leaf, and drizzled with ponzu sauce.
Sesame Oil - Top the cold tofu with shredded nori, toasted sesame seeds, chopped green onions, and a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for a nutty and aromatic twist. You can serve it with either sea salt or soy sauce.
Serve it With
If you're planning a full Japanese meal, consider this Japanese tofu salad with a bowl of miso soup, Japanese rice, sunomono, and Japanese breakfast salmon. The warm, hearty soup, tangy cucumber salad, and savory salmon create the perfect balance for the cool tofu. If you're in the mood for something more substantial, try it with Japanese rice bowls such as Gyudon (beef bowl), Oyakodon (chicken and egg bowl), or Katsudon (breaded pork cutlet bowl).
- 1 package silken tofu (350-400 grams)
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 4 grams katsuobushi
- 1 scallion (finely chopped)
- 10 grams ginger (peeled and grated)
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce (to taste)
- Carefully drain 1 package silken tofu and place it on a plate lined with a few layers of paper towels.
- Use a knife to cut the tofu into 4 blocks.
- Sprinkle the top of the tofu evenly with ⅛ teaspoon salt, then cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.
- To serve the Hiyayakko, plate the blocks of cold tofu and top them with 4 grams katsuobushi, 1 scallion, and 10 grams ginger.
- Serve 2 teaspoons soy sauce on the side to drizzle on the tofu salad.