Hanbey Fu restaurant is without any doubt the biggest gastronomical surprise I had in Kyoto. Fu or wheat gluten has been used in shojin ryori (traditional vegetarian devotional food) for hundred of years, but Hanbey Fu takes fu to another level of sophistication.
Hanbey restaurant is located at the intersection of route 1 and the Kamogawa river. The restaurant is over 300 years old and the stone structure come has a surprise in a city better know for its wooden houses.
The entrance to Hanbey is not on the river side, but on a smaller street running parallel to the river.
Fu is not eaten on a daily basis in Japan like tofu is, but fu offers for any vegetarian a texture which is unique while providing a lot of protein. The idea in shojin ryori is to replace meat with fu.
The meal at Hanbey is composed of multiple dishes made with fu or tofu.
The box has three type of grilled fu with miso sauce.
The fresh fu was extremely soft and buttery.
The fake fu meat was shockingly realistic, it tasted and looked like meat. I am not a fervent of fake meat, but this one was so delicious that I ended up buying some at the souvenir shop. I simply could not believe it was not meat.
The next dish that was brought to our table was a sort of cold soup made with fresh yuba. The silky and gooey taste is very unique and might not be for everybody.
A dollop of fresh ginger gave this soup a nice kick.
Deep fried yuba and fu is really interesting. The yuba was light and crispy while the fu was somehow tasteless.
The next small dish was a play of age-tofu, this age-fu or deep fried fresh fu was somehow lighter than tofu.
The soup was a very rich white miso soup with slices of fresh fu. The white miso was very intense and creamy.
The restaurant is beyond luxurious and I soon find out that the huge building is also a small museum about fu and the history of Hanbey who has been catering to the Imperial family and the people of Kyoto for a very long time.
You can see a fascinating collections of bento boxes on the second floor.
Some of these boxes were given by the Emperor himself
If you are a vegan or simply curious about unique Kyoto food, Hanbey Fu should be high on your list of places to visit in Japan. I have yet to try shojin ryori in a temple, but Hanbey Fu was a very good first experience.
You can also buy most of their products to bring home and even order you own fake meat online.