With my next sentence, I’m going to perpetuate a great big stereotype about eating in California.
I went to a tofu tasting.
It wasn’t nearly as dramatic and hippie-dippy as it sounds. It was part of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum’s Thursday event series — and it involved a lot more than eating. It was an education on the ubiquitous yet misunderstood form of vegetarian protein. It started with a lively discussion on tofu with Minh Tsai, the founder of Oakland’s Hodo Soy, moderated by Jennifer 8 Lee (The Search for General Tso). I’m not altogether sure what I expected, but I gained a fair amount knowledge about making tofu and all of its glorious benefits. That was topped off by tofu tastes created by three of San Francisco’s most impressive chefs: Brandon Jew (Mister Jiu’s), Annie Somerville (Greens) and Stuart Brioza (State Bird Provisions).
My takeaway from the discussion (and the tasting) was all about the yuba. Yuba is, basically, tofu skin (think: pudding skin) — but it’s a lot less gross than it sounds. A better way to think of it is just really thin sheets of tofu that you can manipulate a little differently that you can a block of tofu.
And, while everything I ate was amazing (mapo from Mister Jiu’s and spring rolls from Greens), I was dazzled by the yuba noodles from the State Bird Provisions. They were served cold, sheathed in a dressing of tahini and chili oil, boosted by snap of yuzu pickled mushrooms and dusted with the crunch of toasted quinoa. I’m not typically ambitious enough to try to replicate chef’s dishes at home, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head and I was curious about working with yuba.. so I took at stab at it.
My proximity to Chinatown gives me easy access to a lot of items that aren’t available in standard grocery stores — I got most of what I needed there, but I had to go to Japantown to get my yuba; it was well worth the stroll to a different neighborhood. Other than the yuba, the ingredients can easily be swapped out for comparable items.
- 1 packet Hodo Soy Yuba, cut into ¾” strips
- 1 TB tahini
- 1 TB chili oil
- 1 8 oz package enoki mushrooms, “pickled”
- 1 TB crushed seaweed snack
- 1 tsp toasted quinoa
Since my patience doesn’t allow for proper pickling, for the mushrooms, I sauteed them in 2 TB olive oil until the water evaporated. Off the heat, I added a TB of rice vinegar, 2 TB soy sauce, a tsp chili oil and a TB of chopped something that looks like cilantro or flat-leafed parsley that I found at the Chinese market.
The rest of it was super simple:
- Blanch noodles.
- Whisk together the tahini and chili oil.
- Toss the noodles with mushrooms.
- Top with seaweed snack and toasted quinoa.
My version of the yuba noodles don’t quite match those of State Bird Provisions, but the final product was still really good and easy to make. If you’re looking to expand on your tofu intake — yuba as noodles is an excellent vessel. It’s high in protein, gluten-free and vegan. Though this particular dish has no animal protein or conventional noodles, it’s an incredibly satisfying and flavorful meal.