san jose tofu
i've been going to san jose tofu for as long as i can remember, which despite years on drug abuse, i mean experimentation, i mean i never inhaled, reaches pretty far back - a least an hour or two. i was raised in the general vicinity (before there was even an apple ipod), and since moving away to other countries and other counties, i've spent hours journeying back either physically or mentally to this little mecca for chunks of my creamy, curdy, melt in you mouth soybean heaven. you haven't had tofu till you've tried this stuff.
this is a little family run operation located in san jose's rinky-dink japantown. just a little store front with a tiny counter separating the steaming sinks and vats of incubating tofu gnomes from the "dry" section that houses a couple of refrigerators, some veggies and packaged goods. it's a bit of a throwback to be able to watch the tofu guy wading around in his rubbers amidst the wetlands of tofu creation. and when you buy the stuff, the lady just scoops it out of the sink - kinda like waching your lobster get plucked from the tank.
the process of tofu making involves first soaking the soybeans, followed by boiling and straining to remove the pulp from the juice. essentially the same process as making soymilk. this pulp, which is called okara and can be used for other dishes, is then removed. at san jose tofu they put the okara into a plastic garbage can and you can get yourself a bag or two of the stuff to take home. the many uses for okara are pretty surprising: you can use it for breads, veggie burgers, okara "chicken" nuggets, or more traditionally simmered with dashi, veggies and seasonings. if you're interested in the pan-asian history of okara, there's a pretty interesting article here. being a fan of recycling, i get pretty excited about using this tofu by-product.
the soymilk is then slowly mixed with either nigari (natural magnesium chloride) or calcium sulfate until soft curds form. the curds are then poured into a tofu pressing box and pressed until firm. once the desired firmness has been reached, the blocks are then submerged into cold water where they await their lobster-like fate.
prices are 1.70 per block with a slight discount for larger quantities.
this tofu is not like anything you can buy from the grocery store. it is neither silken nor firm but rather light and curd-y. more like a soft pressed fresh cottage cheese. the flavor is clean and light. it is best served cold and with grated ginger, green onion and soy sauce. "please don't put teriyaki sauce on me" mr. tofu says.
if you're in the area, or are just another tofu freak like myself, you need to check this place out. general tip: to keep your tofu fresh (either san jose tofu or your general grocery store garden variety), change its water every day. be a shame to go all the way to san jose for a stinky rotten white log. here is a sfgate article on san jose's japantown with a mention of sj tofu.
san jose tofu
175 jackson street
san jose, ca
408 292 7026
mon - fri 9-6, sat 9-5