But eating this is textural appreciation of the highest order. Each piece, looking for all the world like a dull, mottled pebble, is cool and slippery outside, tasting like a cold, sweet swirl of wind. That in itself is compelling enough. You can pour on the accompanying brown sugar syrup, with its roasted caramel notes, though it is hardly necessary. Consume immediately. It does not improve on sitting, losing elasticity as the minutes tick by.
Saryou Housen Directions: Walk out of Towzen. Turn left.
Keep following the road until you reach a crossroads. Turn left — turning right will bring you back to the main road — and you should see a brick wall ahead. Kyoto prides itself on its soy products, especially tofu. While Shoraian in Arashiyama is a tourist favourite for tofu-based kaiseki, and it is admittedly decent, I was never particularly taken with it, finding that it owed more of its impact to beautiful surroundings than the food. For a yuba and tofu kaiseki that truly passes muster, look no further than Seike Yuba in the Nishijin district.
This has been my go-to for the last few years. In a single meal you experience a wide spectrum of textures and tastes than one might think possible from the humble soybean. Lunch or dinner here stretches to around two hours. Though the structure of the multi-course meal is similar throughout the year, seasonal changes dictate a number of the dishes.
For instance, on an April visit, the seasonal soy milk soup was scattered with deep-fried new onions, fragrant and savoury with none of the usual pungency.
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The soup itself borders on fresh tofu, with all the consistency of chowder and none of the heaviness. By summer, this warm soup will have morphed into a vichyssoise-like concoction with ripened tomatoes and olive oil. Still, certain elements remain consistent. To name a few: you will always begin with a shot glass of chilled soy milk, practically singing sweet bright beany flavour.
Then a chaser of kumiage yuba, a creamy snowball-like mound of soy, with a little shoyu moistening its bottom. Before you appears a small claypot of soy milk, heated until you can lift silky, thick tongues of yuba out with chopsticks, and eat the lot with tangy ponzu sauce. A few drops of nigari coagulant , and towards the end of your meal it has transformed into warm, fresh, almost custardy tofu, best eaten with a dab of salt to bring out its sweetness. Before you eat, take a few seconds to shake the plate and watch it wiggle and wobble.
It is pure, unadulterated entertainment.
Kyoto Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary Notes
Note: Like many restaurants in Kyoto, its entrance is marked only by an unassuming noren curtain. This is easily done on their website in English. An additional bonus, if you are unaccustomed to sitting on the floor, is that this entire restaurant consists of table seating. Also, if you are vegetarian but okay with animal products like butter and cream, make sure you specify this in your booking. The tofu pudding will be replaced with fruit otherwise!
I am vegetarian but able to eat dairy products. I do not eat meat or seafood.
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Seike Yuba Nishijin Directions: Exit Saryou Housen and find your way back to the main road by turning right, and then right out again. Turn left and walk along the main road until you reach the Kita-oji and Shimogamo Hondori intersection. Take the southward-bound Bus No. Ride it 5 stops and alight at Demachiyanagi Station. Change here for Bus No. Alight at Imadegawa-Omiya. Walk straight, and take the next left. Seike Yuba Nishijin will be on your right about 50 metres down.
Alternatively, the restaurant is but a minute taxi ride away from Saryou Housen. Fortunately, if you do drink, it is pretty much guaranteed to be vegetarian-friendly. Alternatively, you could keep it simple and drop in to any bar that catches your eye. Directions: Head back out to the main road.
Cross the road and find the nearest bus stop on your right. Board Bus No. From here, it is about a minute ride downtown, alighting anywhere between Kyotoshiyakusho-mae and Sanjo-Keihanmae, which are all near major downtown areas like Teramachi and Gion. Alternatively, take a minute taxi ride back to central Kyoto. The Kyoto Vegetarian Foodie Itinerary map shows the location of each of the places mentioned — you can view a full screen version too. About the author: Florentyna Leow is a writer and photographer based in Tokyo. Sign up for the Inside Kyoto newsletter to get useful tips and news to make the most of your trip.
Disclosure: InsideKyoto. Facebook Pinterest Twitter Reddit Print. Hassun platter at Seike Yuba Nishijin — one of 9 courses. Inside Seike Yuba Nishijin. Check Hotel Availability. House blend coffee and egg sandwiches at Smart Coffee, Teramachi. Egg sandwich platter. A selection of baked goods at Le Petit Mec Oike. Cafe et pain au chocolat blanc.
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Rum raisin milk French. Musashi, at Towzen Ramen. The entrance to Towzen Ramen. Warabimochi at Saryou Housen. Inside Saryou Housen. Warabimochi with syrup. The entrance to Saryou Housen. Soy milk and yuba to begin with. Making yuba in front of you. A creamy soy milk soup with deep-fried new onions on top. Fresh yuba. Tofu pudding. The entrance to Seike Yuba. One of the courtyard gardens inside Seike Yuba. Pay when you check out.
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