The Japan Tofu Association is Japan's representative body of all domestic tofu producers.
Two types of tofu find their way onto dinner tables every day; cotton (momen) tofu and silken (kinugoshi) tofu. Since the names are essentially “Cotton” (Momen) and “Silk” (Kinu), it is easy to assume that the names are derived from the production processes whereby the soy milk is strained through cotton or silk cloth. Nothing could be further from the truth. The differences between the two tofu types come from the production processes.
“Cotton” and “Silk”
Soybeans are soaked in water and softened, and then further water is added while the soybeans are milled to produce a raw soybean soup called “Go”. Tofu is produced by straining this “Go” to make soy milk, into which a coagulant (bittern, etc.) is mixed. This same principle applies in the production of both cotton and silken tofu.
In cotton (momen) tofu production, bittern is added to the soy milk, and after the mixture has set to a certain extent, it is poured into boxes lined with cotton cloth with holes in three faces. This is then overlaid with more cotton cloth. Once the soy milk is transferred, weights are applied to press out excess water as the mix solidifies. The imprint on the tofu left by the cotton cloth lining is a characteristic of cotton (momen) tofu.
Alternatively, the boxes used for the production of silken (kinugoshi) tofu have no holes. No weights are applied and no cloth is used to line the boxes. For silken (kinugoshi) tofu, soy milk is poured directly into the boxes and the coagulant is added afterwards to set. Due to this production method, the soy milk used to produce silken (kinugoshi) tofu is much thicker than that used for cotton (momen) tofu.
The cross-section of cotton (momen) tofu is uneven and there is a slightly rough feel on the tongue. It has a simple rustic flavor and a firm texture. On the other hand, silken (kinugoshi) tofu is smoother and has a more refined appearance in comparison to cotton (momen) tofu, and this contrast is the reason behind the “cotton” and “silken” names.
Data shows that the protein content in cotton (momen) tofu is slightly higher. This is due to the greater water content in silken (kinugoshi) tofu. However, silken (kinugoshi) tofu is characteristically higher in water-soluble vitamin content, such as vitamin B1 and B2, etc.
Due to the way it caresses the tongue and the ease with which it slides gently down the throat, silken (kinugoshi) tofu is ideal for “hiya-yakko”, a simple dish of tofu with a dash of soy sauce, and “yu-dofu”, a similar dish but in boiling water. However, this is of course a matter of personal preference.