Nikkō is one of Japan’s most beautiful towns to visit and explore. Visitors will probably notice a food called ‘Yuba’ on the menu everywhere they go. Indeed, this is one of Nikkō’s specialty foods. But what exactly is Yuba, and why is it so popular in Nikkō?
Yuba is essentially tofu skin, the protein and fat layer that forms over the top of boiled soy milk, similar to the skin of a soup. The skins are collected from soy milk boiled in a shallow pan, and dried into sheets. It can be used in many different ways, including in a bowl of noodles (with ramen, soba or udon), deep-fried, on top of sushi, mixed in a curry, even yuba cream inside rice cookies. It is also sometimes eaten fermented.
Yuba is chewy, and mild in taste, not too dissimilar to tofu. It has a nutty taste by itself, and is quite absorbent to other flavours when included in other dishes.
Yuba was not invented in Nikkō. In fact, it dates back hundreds of years to 16th century China, and has been eaten all around east Asia since. So, what is the connection with Nikkō? Because of the large amount of temples in Nikkō, the monks who lived there needed food to match their vegetarian diet, and yuba took off as a popular dish.
Nikkō is the perfect day trip from Tokyo. Readily accessible by train, and with a huge collection of 103 temples and shrines that form one collective UNESCO World Heritage Sight, Nikkō has a lot to offer. It’s also wonderful as an overnight stay, which gives you the added bonus of being able to take a seat at a charming local restaurant for dinner, and slurp down a bowl of yuba soup!
During our visit to Nikkō, we sat down at the Bell restaurant, one of the few restaurants still open past 5pm. We slurped down a hot bowl of soup with yuba, and pored over a map that was bursting with UNESCO temples. A visit to Nikkō is the perfect chance to try this delicious food – make sure you find a great restaurant next time you visit!