Behind the yuba: A trip to Hodo Soy Beanery's factory floor

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When I was fourteen, Snorkel Mom and I went to Japan to visit my Japanese “grandma” Kiyo. She lived in Tokyo and I remember one morning walking with her to a tiny, closet-sized building that had housed the neighborhood tofu shop in the very same spot for several hundred years. We took home a block of the freshest, most exquisite tofu I had ever eaten -- nothing like the hard blocks of flavorless tofu found at most stores here in the States. So when I heard that there was a small company making fresh, traditional tofu in Oakland, I knew it would be worth hopping over the Bay to see what they had to offer.

On the first Wednesday of every month, Hodo Soy Beanery offers a tour to the public, giving folks a chance to sample the wide variety of soy products it creates and see first hand how it gets made. Hodo's long list of organic, GMO-free soy delights includes fresh, creamy soymilk (nothing like that crap you can get in a box!), super-flavorful tofu in a wide range of textures, and ready-to-eat yummies like tofu salads, curry nuggets, and bricks of braised tofu with dense, potent flavors, perfect for adding to a sandwich in place of meat.

But probably the most exciting item at the beanery is its yuba. Hodo is the only place in the country making fresh yuba, a paper-thin tofu skin that comes together on the surface of heated soymilk. It's carefully lifted off, drip-dried, and tenderly folded into small delicate rectangles. The texture is incredible and I can see this super-high protein soy food becoming a staple in home cooking on account of its versatility and delicacy.

And apart from being tasty, a visit to Hodo is fun. The staff was working hard and there's big machines (eyes forward, people!), but there was a very human pace about the place. I got to chat with a few of the workers and they seemed to be enjoying their day.

That's a beautiful thing, when companies are able to create an environment where their employees are having a good time and simultaneously making a product that is pure, simple, and scrumptious. There's no longer the need to travel back to Japan to find that perfect piece of tofu, made in a centuries-old shop. Hodo's right here.

Kind of makes me want to sing... 

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