Say “tofu” to most Americans, and they’ll think of the rubbery, tasteless stuff served at the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Even when I was a vegetarian, I ate a lot of it, but I didn’t love it. It was just protein filler to me. When I started eating meat again, I stopped buying tofu.
And then a few years ago I tried Hodo Soy Beanery‘s tofu at the Berkeley farmers market. It was a revelation. The soft tofu was creamy like a good custard. The yuba (tofu skin) was delicately chewy yet ethereal, eggy, and nutty. I realized I had simply never had real tofu before.
“If you get your conventional tofu here, and you served it in Asia, nobody would eat it. Because it’s not delicious,” says Minh Tsai, Hodu’s founder and tofu master, in this fascinating interview and video tour of the Hodo factory in Oaklad, Calif. by Liza de Guia of Food. Curated. He explains that he’s trying to make a tofu that the Asians in Asia would eat, the kind that’s made fresh and designed to be eaten fresh, not to “sit on the shelf for 90 days,” he sniffs.
Bay Area residents have long been the lucky beneficiaries of that quest. With chocolate maker John Scharffenberger now at Hodo’s helm (see New Agtivist Q&A), Hodo is poised to expand into new markets. If you happen to have an artisanal tofu maker in your area, let others know in the comments. Because as Tsai says, finding good tofu is “kind of like eating fresh bread. Once you eat fresh bread it’s hard to go back to eating stale bread or bread in the store.”
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