What You May Not Know About Tofu That’s Consumed In Japan

Jannine Myers

Tofu is a staple food here in Japan, and while there is much debate about whether or not tofu is good for you – or more specifically, soy – I still continue to eat and enjoy tofu. What I will say about tofu however, is that only a small percentage of what is sold in Japan is actually produced from domestically-grown soybeans. Ironically, Japanese tofu manufacturers rely largely on American soybeans.

Initially, the provision of American soybeans during the post-war era greatly assisted in supplementing the diet in most Japanese homes, but since the United States approved the production of genetically modified soybeans in the 1990s, tofu (and other soy products) is no longer what it used to be. I’m not about to discuss the arguments for and against genetically modified crops (there’s enough information out there for you to do your own research ), but the purpose of this post is to simply bring awareness to the fact that soy products in Japan are heavily dependent on the import of American soybeans.

If the issue of genetically-modified crops concerns you, and you would prefer to buy locally-produced tofu that has been made from organically-grown soybeans (from Mie Prefecture), Green Leaf usually has fresh packages stored in their refrigerator section. I’m sure there are other stores in Okinawa that sell “GM-free” tofu, but Green Leaf (in Chatan) is the only place I currently know of.

For those of you who enjoy tofu as much as I do, here’s one of my favorite tofu salad recipes:

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Tofu made from organically-grown soybeans (in Mie Prefecture)

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Ingredients

  • 1 (14-ounce) container firm tofu
  • 1 can drained white beans
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • handful of cranberries
  • handful of pecan pieces
  • a few stalks of green onions, sliced
  • a bunch of string beans, lightly steamed
  • any type of green leaves (I used Italian parsley in the above dish)

Directions

Wrap tofu in paper towels and let it sit for 20 minutes to remove excess liquid.
Place tofu on a cutting board and cut into cubes. Place 1/3 cup of the tofu in a blender and add 1/2 cup of the beans, mustard, vinegar, agave and salt. Blend until very smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and carefully mix in the remaining tofu and beans. Layer a salad bowl with the greens, tofu mixture, beans, spring onions, cranberries, and pecans. I like to let the salad sit in the refrigerator for several hours before eating, to allow the sauce flavors to penetrate the salad.

References: 

USSEC (U.S. Soybean Export Council) (2012 October). Japanese Trading Companies and the Asia-Bound Grain Trade. Retrieved from http:ussec.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/ASA-IM-Special-Report.pdf

Shimamura, Natsu (2007 Setember). Soybeans. Retrieved from http://tokyofoundation.org/en/topics/japanese-traditional-foods/volume/.-3-soybeans

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