The Great Soy Bean Mystery by Maurine Killough, author of Crudo Summer

Hodo Soy Beanery Tour

by maurine killough, author of Crudo Summer

How do you go from a green bean to a white cake, no trace of color?  And what is yuba?  These and other soy bean mysteries were solved at the July 21st tour of the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland.

Sleuthing started with Dean Ku, co-founder of Hodo Soy, who rolled out a thorough and enlightening tour of this success-story of an enterprise. We began with a tasting of still-warm soy milk, fresh off-the-presses plain tofu cubes, hijiki tofu salad, edamame tofu salad, flash fried tofu nuggets, and spicy yuba strips.

The secret is the freshness. Richer and fuller with a hint of bitter, the soy milk was nothing like I’d ever tasted. The fresh cubes were lightly chewy, but creamy with a delicate, clean flavor. All the dishes were tasty but my favorite was the Yuba Strips.

What is yuba?  To explain, we must first unravel the mystery of tofu. Hodo (translation “good bean”) begins with organic, non-GMO dried soy beans. Green edamame is fresh and  not mature enough. The dried beans are soaked overnight, they are ground and heated. Next the pulp is separated leaving only the white “milk” rich in protein and non-saturated fat.

To make tofu, soy milk is mixed with calcium sulfate which coagulates, just like in cheese-making. After a few minutes the mass is spread out in shallow trays lined with cheesecloth, so the liquid strains out. Next, the trays are stacked and a compressor is used to weight them down squeezing out the liquid. The heavier the weight, the firmer the tofu. After less than an hour, the tofu sheets are ready to be cut and gently moved into a water bath to cool and stay fresh.

Back to yuba – considered the “sashimi of tofu” yuba begins with plain fresh soy milk, hand poured into metal pans with steam heat below. Within minutes, the milk develops a film across the surface. When the film is set, it is expertly hand-lifted and draped on a cooling bar. Yuba looks paper-thin but is quite flexible, and can be cut into “noodles” for a stir fry or marinated veggie mix, but my favorite is using it as a wrap!  It’s delicate, nutty flavor and flexible texture make it absolutely perfect for wrapping veggies, bbq, anything! 

A History – Mr. Minh Tsai brought memories of fresh, delicious tofu from his homeland in Vietnam to San Jose, and since he could find nothing like that here, he soon began replicating it, with great reception at local Farmer’s Markets. Now with former chocolate magnate John Scharffenberger on his board and a 12,000 square foot streamlined factory with custom equipment, Hodo Soy now supplies many restaurants including Coi, Slanted Door and Greens. Always delivered the same day, freshness is of utmost concern and is indicative of Hodo’s emphatic commitment to the highest quality possible.

So, whether it’s a block of white tofu, a spring green edamame, or even a paper-thin sheet of yuba, the Great Soy Bean Mystery is now solved.

photographer Karoline Boehm-Goodnick

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