Feb 17, 2016

Kyoto Yuba SEIKE (Nishijin Branch) - Transformation of Soybeans

One of the traditional cuisines in Kyoto is yuba, or tofu skin. When boiling the soy milk, a thin layer forming on the surface is called yuba. It's similar to tofu especially when both contain soybeans as main component. 

It's worth a try and explores many phases of yuba while visiting Kyoto. The dishes are on the lighter side and meaty ingredients are limited. Good for vegetarians but if you need to have some sort of meat to feel satisfied, try to arrange yuba experience in between two heavy meals. 

SEIKE's original store locates in Miyama area, other two branches are Nijyojyo and Nishijin. I was trying out some wagashi at Toraya around Nishijin, therefore decided to have this light lunch at the Nishijin branch -

Wooden building hidden inside a quite valley. SEIKE Nishijin branch currently holds one Michelin star status -

Walked across the wooden floor, from there, I switched to slippers and followed the waitress to the dining area -

The restaurant arranged a spacious dining area for me with direct views overlooking the garden - 

I was flattered with such great seating. Maybe because the reservation was made weeks ahead? 

Hot tea -

Customized napkin -

The lunch set was already chosen when making the reservation. During my visit, the waitress told me that there's no Japanese menu for the savory dishes. However, they do have English menu for tourists. Also a Japanese menu for drinks -

Sake set -

Chubby-looking container -

Kumiage yuba and soy milk -

This is the very top layer of yuba when the soy milk is made. "The most luscious and precious part of yuba" the waitress said.

The texture and appearance are somewhat similar to cottage cheese, but in a finer and more moist form -

Even though it's made by soybeans, but for a moment I thought I was eating fresh milk cheese. The texture was smooth yet dense like heavy whipping cream. My mind was blown away by how good it was, especially made from simple soybeans.

Soy milk -

Slightly thicker than regular soy milk, more like a heavy weighted silk fabric. 

Soy milk soup -

I visited SEIKE in fall, so the dishes were designed around this season. Even the art pieces in the room change depend on the time of the year, special holidays, and occasions.

Tiny turnip cubes inside, topped with tsukemono (pickled veggies), and pine nuts. Black pepper adds a gentle kick to this light soup.

Hassun -

Seasonal appetizers consist of yuba nigiri, fried yuba, ginkgo nuts, lotus roots, chestnut yam, grilled bran, and more. 

The small yellow container was filled with some kind of tree nuts. It carries a light bitter taste packed with herbal scent. Never tasted anything like that before and it can be very addicting after getting used to the aroma.

The white container was filled with persimmon salad.

The yuba nigiri was dusted with fresh yuzu skin, making it even more delicate and refreshing -

Yuba shabu -

The truth is I was admiring her beautiful hands instead of focusing on the food.

Leave the mixture with medium heat for a moment while the yuba gradually coagulate on the surface - 

Made to order yuba tastes more watery, or perhaps just because I didn't time it well and picked the yuba up too early -

Served with ponzu.

Sashimi yuba -

This dish showcases different textures of yuba. The texture changes depending on how it was lifted from the soy milk mixture. Softer when lifted by hand; harder when lifted by bamboo rods. 

Still love this cottage cheese-like yuba the most -

Meanwhile the waitress poured a tiny portion of "nigari" or a less interesting term "magnesium chloride" to the soy milk. It causes the soy milk to firm up to a more tofu or bean curd-like texture -

Simply served with salt flakes. Not as watery as the shabu version, but still very moist. It's like eating half coagulated soy milk and the other half in liquid form, just they intertwined together nicely and evenly -

Sauces for the next course. Even though just for a short moment, the waitress still covered it with paper to prevent dust or oil from getting in. Oil? You'll see -

Yuba steak -

I was admiring her hand again.

The plate was brushed with butter before searing the ingredients. All the previous dishes were on the lighter side so this one immediately made the room filled with strong buttery aroma. The sizzling sound made it even more appetizing.

I guess the purpose of paper cover was to block the buttery oil from splashing over.

Ready to eat and the sauces revealed. Soy sauce on the left and sesame miso sauce on the right -

Every yuba layer fully absorbed the buttery aroma, but then the most outer layer got a crunchy thin crust - 

Layers of flavors and textures mixed together while chewing in my mouth, very satisfactory. And for a moment I forgot it was a simple soybean product, the fulfilling sensation tricked me into thinking these are meaty pieces. 

Then I finally got some real meat, two duck meat slices -

The only chunky meat throughout the course. That's why I suggested trying a full on yuba experience in between two heavy meals.

Yuba koucha shigure and shibazuke pickles -

Yuba koucha shigure is one of the specialties from SEIKE. Ginkgo, lily root, and wood ear are wrapped inside yuba. It was then simmered in broth flavored with tea leaves, ginger, soy sauce, and more. 

Bouncy Japanese rice - 

Also served with clear soup and pickled vegetables -

Some mountain vegetables inside the soup and seasoned with citrus. Clear and refreshing, very delicate flavors.

Soy milk pudding -

Some more hot tea and hot towel followed -

My yearly intake of tofu/yuba probably all ended up this one meal. It was definitely worth a try even though I almost turned vegetarian throughout the dishes. My system was cleansed, ready for a full on barbecue feast at night!

Kyoto Yuba SEIKE (Nishijin) currently holds one Michelin star status.

Kyoto Yuba SEIKE (Nishijin Branch)
234 Yakushicho,Omiyadori,Imadegawa,Kamigyoku Kyoto

Opening hours:

Lunch 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m (last order)
Dinner 5:00 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. (last order)
Wednesdays off

Extended reading:

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