May 21, 2019

Discovery Tokyo: Cheese in Japan

Cheese and Tofu, two cultures on a plate

Many of the expats in Japan are well aware of the fact that finding cheese around the country is not easy.

Even in a city as big as Tokyo, the shops with my Italian cheese, e for example, are very few and often located in the elite areas because selling prices are not really affordable for everyone.

Having said this, the data concerning the trade of this product disproves this problem of ours. In fact, Japan is the first country in the world in terms of Import of dairy products. So why are we struggling to find them?

Many of them (especially natural cheeses) are sold on the market after having undergone long processing to make them more suited to the choices of a typical Japanese mother.

That’s the reason why, in the supermarkets, we see entire shelves of similar thin cut cheese for hamburgers, mozzarella sticks, cubes carefully packed with spreadable cheese.

Small realities that grow

Thanks to the agreement of February 1, 2019, between Europe and Japan, you will be able to see important changes in the wine and cheese departments thanks to the lowering of import tariffs (it is even said that those of wine will be eliminated).

However, there are realities in which these products are already established. One of them is Fermiere. Famous for the variety of cheeses (you can find them from Italy, France, Belgium up to local products from the island of Hokkaido) is a small paradise of dairy products.



Fermier – Tokyo

With several locations around the city (Shibuya, Shinagawa, and Atago) is much more than a retailer. Fermiere is a restaurant where you can stop for an abundant aperitif/dinner with a rich platter of different cheeses from all over the world accompanied by some good glass of wine.

(They also offer Espresso and Cappuccino but I don’t know if the combination caffeine – fermented milk is a good idea.)

An ideal opportunity to compare the flavors of European cheeses with those of a country where its consumption is very low, and where its production is limited to a few geographical areas.


If you do a research of traditional Japanese dishes (that category of dishes that is part of the large Washoku group) that involve the use of cheese it is difficult to find any results. We need to wait for the influence of Western culture were the first recipes were introduced (belonging to the great Yoshoku cookbook).

In particular, gratin, Doria and soft cheesecakes are certainly the most popular dishes, but not only. Have you ever tried the Tofu – Cheese pairing? I assure you that it is a real explosion of flavors.

An example?

Aburage Sandwich Filled with Soft Tuma

The name can be a bit off-putting, but you can be sure that with quality ingredients it is really delicious. We talked about what Aburage is in different articles (The flavors of Japan: Tofu)

Its delicate flavor and it’s light texture make it an easy ingredient to combine. Just a few flavors are enough to make it an ideal course for a Japanese theme dinner.

After stopping at the tofu shop near home and visiting Fermiere, here’s what we cooked: Aburage Sandwich Filled with Soft Tuma.


Final Touch

Preparation Cut the cheese into small pieces. Cut your tofu centrally, without dividing it in half, forming a bowl large enough to insert your cheese (as in the photo).

In a saucepan, combine sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. Mix and bring them to a boil. When the first bubbles start to appear,  low the fire and insert your cheese-stuffed tofu, browning it on all sides.

Cottura Aburage

When the cheese inside has started to melt. turn off the heat, put your tofu in a dish and serve hot, covered with a bit of leek or chives.

You can also serve it with an egg resting on the surface, preferably with the yolk still slightly raw.

Sandwich Aburage

We like to eat it like this, the “Japanese” style, with a raw yolk on the top and a few drops of soy sauce.

N.B In Japan it is possible to consume special raw eggs sold in supermarkets. In your country, due to possible diseases, pay attention to which egg you chose.

Rating: 10 / 10

Must try!