Tempting Tofu for All

Columns Ono, You Know

June 22, 2014

Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Anthony Consillio

Less is more. This statement holds a universal meaning applicable in all facets of life, but obviously, I’m applying this popular belief to the subject of food (No need to act surprised.); more specifically, tofu, a source of protein I was born to love. Ever since I can remember, I was drawn to the creamy, white blocks of soy. Quite possibly an admiration for tofu runs in my family: My mom can live off it, and my cousin, Moani, answers to the nickname “Mofu-Tofu.” (Sorry, Mo, I had to!)

And while many may think of tofu as a “tasteless health food,” now’s the time to think outside the tofu carton and take advantage of this versatile ingredient made from soybeans, water and a coagulant. Tofu acts like a sponge, and with its chameleon-like characteristics, tofu is a pro at absorbing spices and marinades. For a culinary enthusiast, tofu is your best friend, as it works with you, not against you.

This week, I set out to experience top-tier tofu sensations, so different from store-bought tofu straight out of the carton. Here at the following OYK eateries, when talking tofu, attention to detail is everything. Never have I fallen so hard for this good stuff. The soft custard-like texture of the finished masterpieces are so smooth, clean and simple, while simultaneously fortified with flavor.

By now, you should be tempted for tofu. If not, I’ve enlisted the help of Nabeya Maido, GRYLT and Jade Dynasty to convince you.

Nabeya Maido

In April, a new hot pot eatery opened for business in Market City Shopping Center. Instantly, the spacious restaurant exuded warmth and charm. Patrons are seated at rustic wooden tables hand-crafted by general manager Kevin Suehiro and his father, James.

“We built all the woodwork and the wooden benches that you’re sitting on. My family also came together and devoted their time to help paint the restaurant,” Suehiro says. “The meaning of the word maido is very similar to aloha, and that’s what we bring to our customers.”

Nabeya Maido presents traditional flavors of Japanese-style nabe, while giving patrons the opportunity to customize their nabe by choosing their ingredients — a concept common to Taiwanese-style hot pot dining. First and foremost, pick a preferred soup base, and then select from a wide variety of meats, seafood and vegetables. The nabe comes together nicely, as each table is equipped with its own hot pot station, which can cook multiple broths at once.

Having always been a lover of hot pot and tofu, it was destined that I try the restaurant’s Bijin Nabe ($7.90). Named after the Japanese word for beauty, this nutritious and low-calorie soy milk-based broth is light and creamy, and rich in vita-mins and minerals.

“While cooking, the soy milk begins to curdle and manifests into tofu, which brings a complementary texture to the dish. As the soy milk fades, the flavor of the maido broth comes through. With Bijin Nabe, you have to be diligent and mix it often, so that the broth doesn’t burn,” explains Suehiro, who adds that homemade ponzu sauce complements the nabe.

Tofu also is highlighted in the restaurant’s Maido Tofu. Priced at $3.90, this appetizer features yudofu topped with green onion.

“Yudofu is scooped tofu (rather than block tofu) and it’s extremely soft,” says Suehiro.

It was my first time experiencing yudofu ,and the texture is divine. Its velvety consistency is superb. The dish absorbs a bounty of flavor from ponzu sauce rich in yuzu accents, or a sesame Gomadare sauce (the restaurant’s pride and joy).

Nabeya Maido
Market City Shopping Center
2919 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 204
739-7739

GRYLT

GRYLT offers the best of both worlds: A deliciously nutritious menu and quick, efficient service for those on the go. It’s healthy fast food, if you will. Owned by husband-and-wife duo Allen and Mayu Farinas, GRYLT prides itself on creative chef-inspired dishes abundant with locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant operates on its “build-your-own-plate-lunch” system, in which customers choose a protein, starch, vegetable and sauce.

GRYLT's Grilled Tofu (starting at $9.95)

GRYLT’s Grilled Tofu (starting at $9.95)

Needless to say, I’m GRYLT’s No. 1 fan, as the entire menu is ono to the max. Angus Steak Plate is my favorite, as well as Grilled Tofu Plate (starting at $9.95). Loved by vegetarians and vegans especially, pieces of grilled tofu are seasoned with crystals of Hawaiian sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. If you’re curious as to what sauce to use, I favor sun-dried tomato olive oil.

And new to GRYLT’s starch selection is Farro Salad ($1 more to upgrade). Farro is an earthy, hearty grain, and the salad is played up with tomato, Italian parsley, cucumber, mint, garlic, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a pile of ‘Nalo greens onto the plate and fuel your body with only the best.

GRYLT
Kahala Mall
4211 Waialae Ave. (with additional locations at Ala Moana Center and Manoa Marketplace)
734-7958

Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant

Creativity abounds in Hong Kong-style cuisine at Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Ala Moana Center’s Hookipa Terrace. The embellished dining room is exquisite — and, of course, suitable for royal palates. The fare is innovative and invigorating, as dim sum is transformed into edible works of art, each dish packed with magnificent flavor.

At any Chinese restaurant, you’ll find your usual tofu dishes, but Jade Dynasty goes above and beyond with Silken Tofu ($2.95 per bowl; $30 container with 15-18 servings), a dessert that cleanses the palate after a hefty meal.

“Silken Tofu is available anytime after noon daily. It’s prepared in-house,” says general manager Gary Chan. “We have one person on staff whose main responsibility is to oversee the entire process.”

According to Chan, soybeans are soaked overnight, and the restaurant relies on a special machine that separates the skin from the beans to create soy milk. After sitting for one hour, the soy milk solidifies into a tofu that can be served warm or cool. Lastly, ginger nectar syrup is served on the side — it’s sugar and spice, and everything nice — composed of ginger, honey and a spruce of sugar.

“For centuries, this dessert has been a popular street food in China,” Chan explains. “Silken Tofu is low in calories and has no cholesterol or fat. It’s really good and good for you.”

I can attest to that. Here’s to satisfying your sweet tooth without the guilt! And as an extra bonus, rumor has it that Silken Tofu is beneficial to achieve a radiant complexion. What’s not to love?

Jade Dynasty Seafood Restaurant
Ala Moana Center, Hookipa Terrace
947-8818