Black sesame adventures


Goma dofu and black sesame ice cream. Photo by Pauline Fujita.

Kaiseki: Kyoto's answer to Tapas? Photo by Pauline Fujita

Despite being a big tofu fan and an even bigger sesame enthusiast, I am embarrassed to say that it was not until last summer that I discovered goma dofu (sesame tofu). Goma dofu is made from ground sesame milk and uses kuzu or katakuriko (potato starch) to help the ‘tofu’ set. I discovered it in Kyoto where it is often included in a very traditional Japanese style of dining called kaiseki. Kaiseki is a meal usually comprised of many small dishes (see photo — goma dofu is in the bottom left compartment of the bottom tray) emphasizing seasonal dishes, presentation and the dining atmosphere. It is said to have its roots in Buddhist vegetarian cooking. Each dish is chosen very deliberately and carries with it a backstory and symbolism.

Sesame (goma) comes in black, tan and white varieties. The black variety (kuro goma) in particular is used in many Japanese dishes, especially desserts. I was able to find both white and black goma dofu at the store and, having had the white variety as part of my kaiseki, I tried the black sesame tofu. I definitely prefer black sesame over white/tan sesame and find it has a cruchier texture and subtly different taste. The same was true for the goma dofu. Goma dofu is typically served with some shoyu (soy sauce) and wasabi, as it is fairly plain in taste like soy tofu. I tried it with some ume (pickled plum) paste. All the recipes that I found for making goma dofu called for ground white sesame or tahini with which to make the sesame milk that is then set using kuzu. I did find one recipe that called for katakuriko (potato starch) instead of kuzu, so my next project is to try making black sesame tofu from scratch and maybe try both starches.

*This* week’s project (other than just eating sesame tofu) was a batch of black sesame frozen yogurt. The recipe is adapted from one posted on 101cookbooks (which, in turn cites, roi de la glace, David Lebovitz).

Black sesame frozen yogurt

Goma dofu and black sesame ice cream. Photo by Pauline Fujita.

1 1/2 cups strained plain-ish yogurt
1 1/2 cups greek yogurt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup black surigoma (pre-ground sesame)

equipment: ice cream machine, cheesecloth
patience level: high school

Note you can avoid straining yogurt by just using 3 cups of the greek yogurt to begin with. I really like Brown Cow’s maple yogurt as a base flavor for this, so I use a 50/50 mix of greek and strained yogurt.

To strain the yogurt, fold cheesecloth to roughly the dimensions of a bandana such that you have several layers stacked upon each other, and use this to line a strainer. Pour the plain (non-greek) yogurt into the cheesecloth, and gather the corners to tie it up like a bag. String up — I like to thread a wooden spoon or chopstick through the knot so that I have an easy way to suspend the ‘yogurt bag’ — and leave it to drip overnight.

The next day you should have yogurt that is almost the consistency of cream cheese. Mix this with the greek yogurt, sugar and ground sesame. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and refrigerate mixture for an hour then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Makes roughly 4 servings

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