Decompressing with Tofu

Columns Ono, You Know

March 17, 2012

Story By: Dining Out Team |

Happy Sunday, Ono readers! Wasting no time here, let me get straight to the point. Lately, I’ve been crazy busy! My life is so hectic and sometimes it seems like I’m holding on for dear life. Between work, play and family it can be difficult to find a balance. So, with this said, just to keep my sanity, I’ve been feeling the need to de-clutter my home, work space, car, wardrobe — everything — even the food that I eat. Currently, I’m craving nothing fancy and extravagant, in fact, what I want more than anything is something pure, clean and simple … thank God for tofu!

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a component found in many East Asian and Southeast Asian dishes, and it’s made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. What I love most about this food of choice is that it has a subtle flavor and can be used in a plethora of dishes. Better yet, tofu has a low calorie count, relatively large amounts of protein and calcium, and very little fat content.

So, this week in celebration of tofu, I ventured off to some of the most coveted Ono, You Know establishments in town to sample their take on tasty bean curd, as tofu is most certainly my go-to pick when it comes to cleansing my palate.

Tropics Bar & Grill

  • Tropics' Grilled Tofu ($18)
  • Chef Kapo Kealoha with Tropics' Grilled Tofu ($18).
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Paradise awaits at Tropics Bar & Grill. Located at the beautiful Hilton Hawaiian Village, this world-class dining establishment is the destination of choice for locals and tourists alike who have worked up an appetite after a long day at the beach or by the pool. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for all-day dining, enjoy renowned cuisine prepared by Tropics chef de cuisine Kapo Kealoha while taking in a picture-perfect view of Diamond Head.

On my most recent visit to the eatery, Kealoha revealed some new items on the menu, including none other than Grilled Tofu ($18). Listed as Tropics’ specialty, Grilled Tofu is honestly one of the most delicious entrees I’ve ever sampled that’s quite beneficial to your health. No calorie counting needed with this dish. And post-meal guilt trips? Forget about it!

“Tofu is made with a soy bean curd paste,” Kealoha explains. “It’s a vegetarian option that also can be used as a vegan option, and all the advantages that you would have with vegetables, you have with tofu, which can be used as a steak or fish substitute.”

According to Kealoha, tofu is an excellent source of protein, and the flavor is very neutral — perfect for incorporating different ingredients and tastes. Tropics’ Grilled Tofu features a savory blend of firm Aloha Tofu grilled to perfection and accompanied by roasted tomato, green beans and an array of seasonal vegetables doused in a wasabi ponzu sauce. A side of buttered brown rice completes this dish with a dash of rosemary for that additional flair.

Then cool off with your drink of choice at Tropics’ super-sized bar, where bartenders can serve up virtually any cocktail, including the resort’s signature Blue Hawaii, Classic Mai Tai and more.

Tropics Bar & Grill
Hilton Hawaiian Village Ground Floor, Alii Tower
949.4321 Ext. 42
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On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant

  • The editor is ready to sample On On's new creation, Seafood Tofu Cake Noodle ($12.95).
  • On On's Seafood Tofu Cake Noodle ($12.95)
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My tofu frenzy continued at On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant. As a longtime favorite of mine, this family-owned-and-operated eatery has been satisfying guests with mouth-watering Northern Chinese cuisine for decades. Owners Cowan and Faith Wong first opened the doors to On On in 1980 before relocating to its current location 20 years later.

And what makes On On stand out above the rest is its dedication to authentic Chinese favorites with a touch of local flair. Plus On On will always keep you on your toes with its spontaneous additions to the menu, such as Seafood Tofu Cake Noodle ($12.95), which is its signature cake noodle complemented by a symphony of squid, shrimp, scallops, fried tofu and various vegetables including choy sum, carrots, celery, water chestnuts and bamboo shoots.

“We made this dish especially for Dining Out,” says manager Norman Wong, “and we hope a lot of people will try it, especially those who like tofu.

“Tofu is a good source of protein, it’s very healthy, and our oyster sauce-based gravy with soy sauce and sesame seed oil really adds a bunch of flavor,” he states.

So, while you may gravitate toward the usual Seafood Tofu Casserole, Rainbow Tofu Soup, Ma Po Tofu or Deep Fried Tofu, it’s nice to know that On On is committed to enticing your palate with something new. There will surely be a lot of slurping going on!

On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant
1110 McCully St.
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Hifumi Restaurant

  • Hifumi's Unagi Shiitake Tofu Tama ($12.95)
  • Hifumi's Chiri Nabe ($10.45)
  • Hifumi's Sukiyaki ($11.45)
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Hifumi Restaurant brings a taste of Japan to Chinese Cultural Plaza, drawing in crowds with its authentic Japanese cuisine for the past 34 years. And when we’re talking about Japanese food, tofu is definitely a staple, utilized in many of Hifumi’s dishes. A best-seller here — spotlighting tofu, of course — would have to be Sukiyaki ($11.45 a la carte, $17.45 with sashimi, $23.45 with sashimi and tempura), a traditional dish served with your choice of pork, chicken or beef with an array of vegetables and creamy tofu simmered in a soy-based broth. Delicious! I’d also highly recommend Unagi Shiitake Tofu Tama ($12.95 a la carte, $18.95 with sashimi, $24.95 with sashimi and tempura), an exotic entree simmered with morsels of tofu, egg, morsels of unagi and green onion. Finally, opt for Hifumi’s Chiri Nabe ($10.45 a la carte, $16.45 with sashimi, $22.45 with sashimi and tempura), similar to Sukiyaki, but simmered in a clear vegetable broth rather than a soy-based broth.

All of Hifumi’s traditional meals are served with rice, tofu miso soup and tsukemono. What’s wonderful about this restaurant is the high quality and large quantity of food (sans MSG) offered at a reasonable price.

Tempura enthusiasts also would be pleased to know that shrimp and vegetable tempura are made fresh every day, and tofu addicts should note that Hifumi only uses locally made tofu in its dishes.

Hifumi Restaurant
Chinese Cultural Plaza
100 N. Beretania St., Ste 113
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