That Wonderful Curdled Soy

It’s that time of year again for the annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival where you
can discover the joy of soy! On top of the Tofu Dessert Competition, live musical performances,
soy and tofu vendors including free samples, you’ll probably run into the reigning Cherry
Blossom Queen and her Court. Of course you’ll have to take my word. Why? I’ll still be here in
the 50th since I usually “burn” my Bay Area vacation in the Fall. But hopefully I’ll inspire you
to add more soy to your diet 2500 miles away.

The Basic

Early on in life, the basics simply meant Mom draining a container of tofu, placing it in a
shallow bowl then slicing the block roughly into 1 inch cubes. These cube were simply dipped or
drizzled with plain shoyu and consumed as is. As basic as it gets. But during my undergraduate
days at the University of Hawaii, I frequented a Japanese restaurant because a classmate was
doing an internship there or more likely it was because the chef was very liberal with his sake
and beer pours because of our friendship with his intern. The chef did have a simple tofu dish on
his menu where he simply grilled the tofu on one side then topped it with shaved bonito flakes
and finely sliced green onion. Due to the residual heat of the tofu, the bonito flakes “danced”
on the surface of the tofu which probably made it taste better – mentally at least - than if the
bonito flakes laid there motionless. The tofu was then drizzled with a flavorful teriyaki sauce
instead of plain shoyu and served with a little dish of daikon-tsuri (grated white turnip).
Something about creamy fresh tofu, smoky bonito, herbal and sharp green onions with a salty,
sweet, peppery sauce. A little more involved that Mom’s tofu but worth every minute of that
extra effort.

The Gochiso Gourmet’s Teriyaki Sauce

1 cup low sodium shoyu
½ cup sugar
2 cloves fresh garlic, grated
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp awamori or sake

1 tbsp awamori or sake
2 tsp corn starch

Dissolve the cornstarch in the awamori/sake and set aside. Bring the shoyu, sugar, ginger, garlic
and awamori/sake to a simmer then stir in the cornstarch slurry, constantly whisking until it

I believe I finally have a teriyaki sauce that’s not too salty or overwhelms any dish and tofu is as
subtle as they come. Enjoy with a tokkuri of sake!

The Avant Garde

This dish isn’t really avant garde in the truest sense. There’s no dehydrated tofu or soy powder,
no powdered soybean oil or other forms of molecular gastronomy. The main soy component is
still pretty recognizable just that it’s been processed a little different than your usual block of
tofu. It’s first been frozen. If you remember a previous column I wrote on the joys of soy,
totally freezing then defrosting a block of tofu reduces the water content of tofu a lot more
than simply draining it on a cheesecloth. Throw in a little smoky flavors from unexpected
sources and process your “greens” a little differently and you’ll have my:

Smoked Tofu Club Sandwich

One block fresh tofu frozen for at least 24 hours then defrosted then sliced into ¾ inch “patties”
2/3 cup low sodium shoyu
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 & ½ tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp dried sage

3 Roma tomatoes sliced in half lengthwise
1 small sweet onion with ends removed and sliced in half
1 to 1 & ½ cup mayonnaise (use egg-free if you want a vegan sandwich)
A couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce (leave out if you want a vegan sandwich)
A couple dashes of garlic powder
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste

4 cups fresh arugula
¼ cup macadamia nuts or almonds
1 large clove fresh garlic
6 500mg Vitamin C tablets, crushed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (leave out if you want a vegan sandwich)
Salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Roughly ½ cup olive oil

Sliced fresh tomatoes
Shredded lettuce
Hamburger buns

Combine the first block of ingredients – be careful handling the tofu as you want it to remain
as intact slices. Place in a zip top bag, remove as much air as possible and marinate in the
refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. Remove and drain as much moisture from the tofu as possible –
I place it between several folded paper towels and place a small frying on top as a “weight” to
help press some of the liquid out of the tofu. Place in a smoker for about 1 hour – if you don’t
have a smoker, place your fired coals on one side of your grill and the tofu on the other side so
they aren’t over direct heat. Add wood chips on the coals and cover your grill. I flip the tofu
over about 30 minutes into the smoking process but once again, be careful while flipping so the
slices remain intact.

While the tofu is smoking, you can also add the sliced Roma tomatoes and sliced onion to
smoke at the same time. After the tomatoes are smoked, remove the skins and inner pulp. Allow
the tomato flesh and onions to cool before proceeding. Place the tomatoes and onions in a food
processor along with the rest of the ingredients in the second block and process until they’re
fully incorporated. This Smoked Tomato Mayonnaise improves in consistency if it’s allowed to
chill overnight.

Combine all of the ingredients in the third block except the olive oil in a food processor. Process
until a slightly chunky “paste” is achieved. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the
olive oil until a thick, sauce-like consistency is achieved. This Arugula Pesto firms in consistency
after it has chilled overnight.
To create the sandwich, slather the Smoked Tomato Mayonnaise on the bottom of a toasted
hamburger bun then top with the lettuce. Place the smoked tofu on top of the lettuce then top
with the sliced tomatoes and finally slather the top toasted bun with the Arugula Pesto to
complete the Club Sandwich. And if prepping the mayonnaise and pesto seems a bit mendokusai
for you, just smoke the tofu which you can use on its own as a smoked meat alternative.

The Sweet

This dish is an adaptation of a dessert I first sampled at Pah Ke’s Chinese Restaurant in my
hometown of Kaneohe, Hawaii. Chef Raymond Siu has a Soy Milk Custard on his dessert menu
that’s to die for! He infuses the soymilk with a little sorbet and fresh vanilla beans along with
gelatin to create a custard-like consistency then serves it with chopped fresh local fruit
including mango and strawberries and it’s served with a scoop of berry sorbet. As luscious as a
panna cotta but without any cholesterol and very little fat!

In lieu of Chef Raymond’s recipe, this is my basic version of his superlative dessert offering. Heat
2 cups of soymilk and 2 teaspoons of powdered gelatin in a microwave for 45 to 60 seconds
until the soymilk is hot enough to dissolve the gelatin. Place in a ½ cup mold of your choosing
and refrigerate until the “custard” sets. Obviously plain soymilk and gelatin alone do not make
good eats, there must be flavoring components so experiment on your own! The basics are ½
teaspoon of powdered gelatin and ½ cup of soymilk for every serving, the rest is up to your
imagination but here are some of my suggestions for every 2 cups and tablespoon of soymilk.
Since soymilk does have an inherent sweetness, I just add agave syrup for a little more sweetness
though you can substitute sugar or honey for additional sweetness:

Vanilla soymilk, 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise and scraped of the inner vanilla seeds, 1 teaspoon
vanilla extract and 2 tablespoon agave syrup

Chocolate flavored soymilk, ¼ cup chocolate syrup, 1 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 tablespoon agave

Substitute ½ cup of fruit puree for ½ cup of the soymilk

The Good

Though I enjoy the simplest preparation of tofu just as is, you can also pump up the flavor
volume with just a little tweaking on your own. Who said that soy and tofu are just flavorless,
bland products that only hippies can enjoy? I can assure you that it wasn’t me as soy and tofu
always have a place on the Gochiso Gourmet’s dining table. And it should always have a place on
your dining table as well.