It may be hard to think of a tofu that’s not made from soybeans. But beyond the bean, there’s a variation made with sesame seeds and kudzu. Making goma dofu can be laborious and time-consuming, but that effort and its vegetarian nature make it a centerpiece of shojin ryori, or Zen Buddhist devotional cuisine.
Making a shojin ryori meal is often considered meditative, especially when it’s difficult. Goma dofu epitomizes that idea: Often, monks soak sesame seeds and painstakingly grind them by hand. Then, they mix the ground seeds with powdered kudzu starch and water, and cook over low heat. While many people are familiar with kudzu as an invasive species, it’s also edible, adding thickness and shine to the goma dofu. After leaving the mixture to cool and set, monks slice and serve it with fresh wasabi and soy sauce, a simple presentation that belies all the work needed to make it.
Need to Know
Goma dofu is often part of a shojin ryori meal served at Buddhist temples in Japan.