Tofu Turnaround

Let’s face it, not many of us are that tickled by tofu.

But Oakland’s new organic tofu producer, Hodo Soy Beanery, might just make you bonkers for bean curd.

That’s because Hodo’s products are made by hand, using much thicker soy milk to create its products. The results are tofu products with a very rich, creamy and fresh “beany” taste.

The factory was started by former financial consultant, Minh Tsai, who grew frustrated that he couldn’t find tofu as fresh and flavorful as he grew up eating in Vietnam.

Now, Tsai sells a variety of tofu and prepared tofu salads at Bay Area farmers markets and select gourmet grocers.

Besides prepared tofu salads, Hodo also produces what is thought to be the only fresh, organic yuba (tofu skin) manufactured in this country. Trays of soy milk are steamed until the proteins rise to the surface and form a skin. Then, each individual skin is lifted from each tray by hand and hung to dry, before being folded up into bags to be sold.

The yuba are like silky, paper-thin, noodles. They’re great julienned into salads, or rolled up into an almost faux “omelet.”

To learn more about Hodo Soy Beanery, take a visit during one of its twice-monthly public tours, where you’ll get to see the yuba being made and enjoy tastes of various tofu products.

And be sure to read my story in today’s East Bay Express to find out how Hodo and top Bay Area chefs such as Daniel Patterson at San Francisco’s Coi are transforming our attitudes about this once-mocked ingredient.

More: Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce

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  • Great post as always. I already like tofu so the thought of something richer and more artfully made sounds appealing. I’ll have to check it out the next time I’m in the bay area.

  • I like tofu the Asian way, but not when it’s meant to replace meat. I still have to try tofu skins…



  • There was a marvelous article on fresh Japanese tofu from Kyoto in a recent issue of Bon Appetite that really piqued my interest in high quality tofu. I’m happy to learn that there is a place in the U.S. taking on the manufacture of high quality tofu products! Do you know if they ship out of state?

  • It’s interesting to see how the humble, cheap ingredients of my youth are starting to get some cachet. The photos are beautiful, and I wish him much success!

  • I really love to see those pictures of the man making the tofu….very interesting. My mom used to make when we were young. Nothing beats fresh homemade tofu. Love all the tofu dishes here……mouth-watering! Thanks for sharing, Carolyn!

  • Thanks for writing about this. We’re very fortunate to live in the Bay Area, where we have access to handmade tofu. (In San Jose’s Japantown there’s a tofu shop that sells delicious blocks for only $2!) I’m looking forward to touring the Hodo factory!

  • I bought some about a month ago at the farmers market. Loooooove it! Will have to take the tour soon.

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  • I grew up on Tofu skin and LOVE it! My mom used to stir fry it with bamboo shoots and oyster mushrooms. SO yummy!

  • I had to guess before coming over to find out. I love tofu and this is fantastic! Like tofu noodles.

  • This is a must explore for me, cannot wait to check out – thanks so much for sharing.

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  • It’s a small factory, but it’s nice to see how they put everything together. I like seeing them at the farmers’ markets. Their people are always so friendly and passionate about tofu.

  • I actually really like tofu. This sounds fantastic, and the salads all look great. Wishing this were built near my home!

  • Another timely post, Carolyn, since, after a failed attempt to replicate the most delicious agedashi tofu I’ve ever had (from Azuma down in Cupertino) ((like Single Guy Ben, I’m not so good at the frying of stuff)) (((Wait, cancel that remark — he never said he’s not good at making it, just a bit averse to eating it. Sorry, Ben!))) I currently have half a block of grocery store soft tofu in the fridge, along with all the ingredients for the tasty-sounding sauce you presented in the click-through link. Excellent suggestion to refresh to a new bottle of sesame oil, though — I can’t even remember how old mine is at the moment, so that tells me it’s undoubtedly over the hill. Surely whatever I do with it will not even remotely compare to a creation based on Hodo Soy products — those tofu skin “noodles” look amazing!

  • Phoo-D: Because the products are so perishable, Hodo Soy Beanery does not ship orders out of state, unfortunately.

  • i hate when people poo-poo tofu without even trying it. they need to visit and taste-test at a place like this!

  • I want some. Badly! Now! What a mouthwatering and interesting post. Thank you.

  • This was a really interesting post!

    Tofu is a wonderful thing!

  • Wonderful and informative article. Although I’ve been enjoying tofu for years, I’ve never known how it is made. I can’t wait to try this tofu on an upcoming trip to SF next month.

  • If I haven’t said it to you yet, I can eat tofu everyday! Unfortunately, not everyone in the family is on board with my love for tofu.

    Great post, Carolyn. The pictures are so delightful and the dishes are very drool worthy.

  • Although I am far from being a tofu connoisseur, it’s frustrating that I usually can find only one kind at the grocery store (the ones typically shelved in the produce section with the bean sprouts and wonton wrappers) I’d love to know more about the varieties of tofu such as those pictured above. No mockery from me – I love tofu, especially as dessert (dou fu hua? taho in the Philippines).

  • Hodo’s production truly impresses me. It is different from what I saw from the traditional style which uses bamboos for hanging the yuba and large woks for boiling the soya milk. That is why the yuba is round in shape. Thanks for sharing.

  • what a great post! i’m actually one of those people who LOVE tofu! i just recently started enjoying soft tofu in salad with a ponzu dressing that we make. mmmm!!!

  • Tofu are particularly good for women, I heard. Thanks again for such useful info. I must check this out when I am back. 😀

  • this is so awesome, lovely, just melts my heart away, he is so culinaprenuer!

  • Tofu skins are my favorite!!

  • Those tofu skins look fantastic! Are they available in most Asian markets or do you have find a direct source? What is pressed tofu? It’s also delicious.

  • Jai: A lot of the tofu skins in markets is dried. Hodo does sell its fresh tofu skins in a few stores in the Bay Area. As for pressed tofu, it’s firm-textured tofu that literally has been pressed to compress the texture so that it’s much denser. Good for stir-frying because it holds its shape.

  • Wonderful post! I’m one of the few people out there who are ‘tickled by tofu’! The fragrance of fresh tofu is one of my favorite smells ever. Definitely taking the Hodo Soy Beanery tour when I visit San Francisco. And thanks for leaving a comment on my blog, it was a welcome reminder that I’ve been away from your gorgeous site for far too long!

  • I’d love to tour the Beanery.

    Here in Malaysia they like to use the bean curd skins in curry. It’s delicious!

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  • AMAZING Carolyn. I love it, thanks for forwarding to my attention. His work definitely gives some respect to the previously lowly-tofu!!

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