Recipe for Chilled Tofu and Baby Sardines, by Andrea Nguyen

'Hiyayakko' is a classic dish found in Japanese izakaya. Here, the softness of tofu is combined with the crunch of grilled sardines.


WordsClémence Leleu

© 2011 by Maren Caruso

If there ever was an ultimate tofu-based dish for the summer, it’s jako hiyayakko, a chilled tofu dish garnished with a multitude of little sand shrimps. This recipe is from the book Asian Tofu by chef Andrea Nguyen, who offers almost one hundred recipes in which tofu reigns supreme and which are available in vegetarian, vegan, and meat versions. 

Although tofu originally comes from China rather than Japan, it has carved out a prime position for itself in Japanese cuisine, particularly due to the influence of Buddhist monks who use tofu as an ingredient of choice in their vegetarian recipes

Before breaking down the steps to make this recipe, Andrea Nguyen points out that it is ‘spectacular with homemade tofu.’ For those wishing to try it out, the chef has taken care to provide a step-by-step recipe to make your own tofu. 

Serves 4, as an aperitif


2 tablespoons canola oil

32 g dried baby sardines

450 g silken tofu or medium tofu, or 200g tofu pudding, chilled

4 or 5 green shiso leaves, cut into very thin strips (about 32 g total)

1.5 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted and slightly crushed with a mortar and pestle

Japanese seasoned soy concentrate or high-quality Japanese soy sauce


In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, position a mesh strainer over a bowl and have this set up near the stove; you’ll use it to quickly drain the fish. The oil is ready when you drop in a fish and it immediately sizzles.

Add all the fish and gently fry, stirring constantly, for about one minute, until they are fragrant and crisp. During cooking, they’ll darken, then turn golden. If you like, pick up the skillet towards the end to prevent overcooking.

Pour the contents of the skillet into the strainer. Give the strainer a good shake, then transfer the fish to a paper towel-lined plate to further drain and cool. Keep at room temperature if using within hours. Or, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to a week; return the fish to room temperature before serving.

If using silken tofu, run a knife around the edge of the mould or package and invert onto a plate to unmould. Pour off the excess liquid or use a paper towel to blot it away. If using block tofu, drain it on a dishtowel or a double layer of paper towels placed atop a plate. Cut the silken or block tofu into husky 2.5-cm-thick dominoes or 5-cm squares. Arrange them on individual dishes or in shallow bowls. If using tofu pudding, scoop up large shards with a metal spoon, putting them into a shallow bowl or individual dishes. Before serving, pour off any whey that gathers.

Top the tofu with some shiso and sesame seeds, and a crown of the fried fish. Serve the seasoned soy sauce on the side. If you have leftover fish, save it for a rice topping.



Asian Tofu (2012), by Andrea Nguyen, published by Ten Speed Press, is currently only available in English.

As well as writing cookbooks, the chef regularly collaborates with various American newspapers, gives cookery lessons and offers her services as a consultant to numerous chefs, especially in California where she lives. Her book, which combines traditional and more contemporary recipes, showcases Asian dishes, but also offers recipes inspired by western dishes, particularly from San Francisco or New York.

“Reprinted with permission from Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home by Andrea Nguyen Copyright © 2011. Studio photographs copyright © 2011 by Maren Caruso. Location photography copyright © Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.”

© 2011 by Maren Caruso