So, it’s not secret that I’m a lazy blogger but another reason why I don’t update very often is because I don’t have enough time to do the research and write posts that do any of the topics/subjects justice. And for places/things that I like and want to talk about, it’s hard not to write a lot especially when so much of the information available about these subjects are only in Japanese or Chinese and not easily accessible to English reading visitors.
But obviously I’m not the first person to discover or even talk about everything ^_^ so today, I’ll just share some comments and provide links where you can get additional info.
Okay, enough with the (yet another) long introduction.
Several months ago (summer?) Charlie and I were at one of Mitsuwa’s (San Jose branch) food fairs when we saw a newly set up corner near their existing tofu section featuring products by 男前豆腐. Even though we haven’t heard of the brand before, we decided to buy a few to try.
Now some people might consider paying $3 – 4 for a block of tofu to be unreasonable but I know that even in Japan, high quality tofu can be quite pricey so paying <$5 for a pack of something that has been air shipped seems like a good value to me.
Anyway, so we went home with 2 packages that night before knowing anything about the brand or the products figuring that at worst, it will taste similar to the ones (from Kyoto) that they already carry, which we already liked.
I was happily surprised, however, after doing some research, to find that 男前豆腐 is something that is gaining popularity even in Japan and in the US, was only previously available in certain areas (like NYC) – now, why do they get everything Japanese first?)
Now, before I tell you what I think of 男前豆腐 I’ll just say that I’m not a tofu specialist. I never thought much of them until I moved to Japan and learned that there are entire restaurants devoted to tofu and tofu cuisine. These days I enjoy them a lot more but mainly, I just divide them into 2 categories – LIKE (will spend $$ and make effort to buy) or DON’T LIKE (won’t go out of my way to get any).
Prior to 男前豆腐 I’ve tried Hodo Soy, which sells at the Ferry Building’s Farmer’s Market…but for some reason, the taste was forgettable (too “American?” I’m not sure how to explain this) so I never bothered to buy their stuff again. I’ve also tried San Jose Tofu, which I remember liking better than Hodo Soy but again, not enough to drive 25 or 30 min to purchase.
But 男前豆腐 now, this is the kind of stuff that I’d buy…no, serve to family and friends so that they can taste how delicious tofu can be…
So how does it taste? Okay, first of all, we’ve only tried their tofu straight – not cooked or with anything else other than some dashi soy sauce or ponzu – so I’m not sure how this tofu will compare with others for dishes like soup or stir fry. But if you do try 男前豆腐, I’d recommend eating it directly first because that’s probably how you can best taste everything.
To be honest, the first time I tried it, I was actually a little disappointed after the first bite because I was expecting to be “wowed” but it didn’t blow my mind. Yet, after finishing our meal, I wouldn’t stop thinking about how tasty it was and how I would be interested in trying more of their products.
Anyway, so back to the taste. Like one of the Taiwanese bloggers said, it’s almost like 豆花 (the soy custard dessert they serve at dim sum) – full of soymilk flavor. At the same time, the texture is somewhat like panna cotta, creamy and dense. I can see why some people decide to eat it like a dessert by adding honey or maple syrup as toppings.
So if you like tofu definitely give 男前豆腐 a try (just keep in mind the silky texture I just described so you’re not taken by surprise because it’s very different from the other kinds of tofu that you’ll usually find in the US). Even if you don’t like tofu, I’d say give it a try anyway. Who knows, you might find that you actually like tofu.
Oh, though it’s not obvious from my photo but apparently the design of their packaging and in fact, their whole marketing is something of a pop culture phenomenon. So definitely visit the company’s website to see what is so hip about 男前豆腐 besides the taste. [By the way, the first time you visit, keep the “sound on” but make sure you’re some place where you won’t disturb anyone because the music is funky and can be loud. Also, most of the website seems to be in Japanese but if you click “Skip (sound on) you can visit the “story” tab where there is English text.]
Lastly, here are some links to more information about 男前豆腐 and what others think about them (as ranked by google’s search engine). I’m listing only 4 here but you can easily find many others.
And once you’ve tried 男前豆腐 you can become their fan on Facebook ^_^
I’m not sure how sales are going for 男前豆腐 but please, if you like them, do buy their products often so they will continue to be available in the Bay Area. Thanks!
Update: uploaded a photo of the 男前豆腐 corner at the San Jose Mitsuwa…
Update 2 (May 24, 2010): After phasing out at Mitsuwa months ago Otokomae Tofu just posted via FB that their products will now be available at Marukai Supermarket in Cupertino. Yay!