You may have seen a dish called hiyayakko popping up on the menu of your favorite sushi joint lately. A simple dish of cold tofu and toppings, this traditional Japanese dish is the perfect appetizer for warm summer days. In fact, hiayayakko, when used in Japanese haiku, means “summer.”
Top: Hiyayakko recipe | Just One Cookbook
Ordering it in a restaurant always reminds me of my late mother. Not just because it was one of her favorite dishes, but because whenever we would see it on the menu she would lean over and whisper, “Why do people pay so much for this when it’s so easy to make?”
She was right – it really is easy to make and doesn’t even require a recipe.
Simply drain tofu, cube it and top each piece with a spot of grated ginger, a few slices of green onion, a sprinkling of bonito flakes and a splash of soy sauce. If you’re really feeling fancy you can add some sesame seeds, wasabi, or thinly sliced cucumber.
But there are so many ways to go! I suggest you check out this recipe for Japanese Chilled Tofu (sorry mom) from Namiya at Just One Cookbook, in which she explores tons of ideas for hiyayakko toppings that I’m eager to try. She offers serving suggestions, and even ways to make it a pure vegetarian dish too.
As for me, I just love hiyayakko in its simplest form, the way I grew up eating it in my mother’s kitchen. Clean, cool and healthy, it’s one of those recipes whose simple preparation really undersells the deliciousness and complex flavors of the final dish.
Serve it alongside fresh steamed rice and it becomes an entire meal, or set it out with with some edamame and shishito peppers for a light, all-appetizer summer meal.
Either way, my mom would be proud you didn’t pay too much for it at a sushi bar.