Takashi Tamura, the 60-year-old proprietor of the Japanese cuisine restaurant Tsukiji Tamura, appeared on a TV cooking show for the first time when he was around 30.

Although he declined the offer at first, saying he was “still inexperienced as a cook,” his grandfather Heiji insisted, “Go ahead and do it.”

Tamura, who later gained a following with his witty TV appearances, came up with “avocado mixed with tofu sauce” for the show.

He decided to incorporate avocado, which was not yet familiar at that time, into Japanese cuisine, thinking the green went well with the white color of the sauce and that the textures blend nicely.

That flexible mind-set had been the ethos of the restaurant that began offering a lunch course for women as early as 50 years ago. The endeavor proved popular by giving women the chance to get acquainted with the upscale Japanese eatery.

When Tamura took over the restaurant, he added a boxed lunch to the menu. Although it is intended to be enjoyed casually, they start cooking the fish and egg after the order comes in.

“We want the guests to enjoy them warm. That is a matter of course for a restaurant.”

When asked which dish he does not want to see disappear from home cooking, he answered “aemono,” a mixture of vegetables and other ingredients with a variety of sauces.

“It is a pity that fewer people make them,” Tamura added.

Since in-season vegetables are used in aemono, it is tasty and not costly. Even if the same sesame sauce is used, the ingredients change with the seasons and turn out differently.

This week Tamura introduces summer vegetables mixed with tofu sauce. The cucumber, bell pepper, myoga and zucchini placed in a large bowl bring the fields in the height of summer to mind.

Grilled tofu is used since the reduced water content saves us from the time and trouble to drain the water from the tofu. As he held a number of cooking classes for home cooking, he started to look for simpler ways.

The choice of peanut butter instead of sesame paste in the sauce also reflects Tamura’s aim to familiarize Japanese cuisine. The sauce takes on an edge that matches the large pieces of vegetables.

“When serving, stack spoonfuls on top of each other.”

This way, the heap will not break when being dished out and will look nice to the end. The chef cares for the dish even after it has reached the dinner table.


(Serves four)

100 grams cucumber

100 grams zucchini

100 grams bell pepper (piman)

70 grams flat beans (Morokko ingen)

50 grams myoga

1 block grilled tofu (yaki-dofu)

1 Tbsp peanut butter


Place grilled tofu on sieve.

Cut cucumber and zucchini into bite-size pieces while rotating on cutting board. Remove stem end and seeds from bell pepper, chop coarsely. Cut beans at an angle into 5-mm wide pieces. Cut myoga in half lengthwise.

Bring water to a boil in pot and add 2 tsp salt per liter. Boil cut vegetables one kind at a time until still slightly crunchy. Lay on flat container and cool. Cut myoga further in half lengthwise.

Place grilled tofu in bowl and mash well with fork or whisk. Add peanut butter, 1.5 Tbsp sugar and slightly more than 1 Tbsp light soy sauce and mix well with spatula until smooth.

Place vegetables in another bowl and coat with 1 Tbsp each of light soy sauce and sweet mirin sake. This will serve as the base flavor and the vegetables will lose excess water as well. Drain well and mix thoroughly with the tofu sauce.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column. This column will next appear on Sept. 5.