Last week I got a sneak peek at the Hodo Soy Beanery factory in Oakland. I learned how tofu, soy milk and yuba (tofu skin) is made and my ability to eat store bought tofu was ruined forever.
I am not a tofu hater. I like it. I don't find it bland, but mild, and I love the way it picks up the flavor of whatever else is in the pot or pan. I even like the Japanese style of serving cold cubes of tofu topped with a little grated ginger, soy sauce and scallions. Hodo Soy founder Minh Tsai likes tofu too. But he missed the fresh tofu he ate in Vietnam where he grew up. He experimented making it and his creations were a big success. Today he sells to high end restaurants like Greens, Slanted Door and Coi. Tsai explained at first restaurants used his products for staff meals but quickly it migrated on to menus. Soon his tofu will be at retail outlets and in December you can visit the factory and see it being made too.
It's not a very complicated process, though much of the process is done by hand. Organic non-genetically modified soybeans grown in the US are soaked 6-8 hours, then ground, water is added, they are cooked by steam injection and filtered. The soy milk can be drank fresh, used to make yuba, a most delicate and tender tofu skin (nothing like the kind that is rehydrated) and also used to make tofu. Calcium sulfate is used to coagulate the soy milk and turn it into tofu, and then it is pressed and cut into chunks.
Fresh tofu is a lot like fresh mozzarella. It tastes very different and much better when it is super fresh. The texture is better and so is the flavor. Yes, flavor. Fresh tofu and soy milk have unbelievable creamy, nutty, slightly bean-y flavor. It is delicious with sweet or savory preparations. You just have to try it to believe it. I can see using the sheets of yuba like crepes, as noodles, and stir fried. "Ho" means good in Chinese and "Do" means bean. Good bean. Really.
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