Take Me to Tofu Town

Dawdling along the main thoroughfare at the bottom end of the speed limit, our final destination still managed to elude us. Surely the GPS hadn’t been mistaken, but even after two slow drive-by searches of the suggested location, not a hint was found to indicate that we had arrived. Sequestered within a completely unmarked building about the size of a modest New York apartment, the average onlooker would never realize that they were staring right at the source of the best tofu in the tri-state area. One could easily walk right past it for years without a second thought, and yet on closer investigation, the tell-tall aroma of cooked beans can be detected wafting through the air, and hints of laborious activity glimpsed through the small windows. This is the factory for Bridge Tofu in Middletown, Connecticut- Not exactly a tourist destination for those who are in the know.

Arriving completely unannounced after a few inquisitive phone calls fell on deaf answering machines, it was clearly no place for curious bystanders, and yet I was immediately, graciously welcomed through the plastic flaps covering the doorway. A tour would have been superfluous, as all stages of production could easily be viewed standing right there in the entry.

Tons upon literal tons of soybeans piled into multiple barrels, hinting at the impossible volume of bean curd being produced in this tiny space. Committed to organics, their dedication to sourcing out the highest quality ingredients is one that comes through in the flavor.

An immense, metal-clad machine spit out silky white soy milk across the way, spewing out gallons by the minute. Every single drop is needed, condensed down further once coagulation is set into motion. Large rectangles press the curds into the largest slabs of tofu you’ve ever seen, to be cut into size once firm, but still creamy on the inside. It’s this incredible texture that truly sets Bridge apart from other tofu options on the market. Few would recommend eating plain, uncooked curd, but this is one that is genuinely delicious on a hot summer’s day with just a splash of soy sauce and handful of sliced scallions on top. It only comes in one level of firmness, but it’s a one size fits all style of tofu, seamlessly fitting into nearly any recipe out there.

Freshly severed small rectangles float through a final water bath before reaching packaging, a mere four or five meters away from where they were born. Each label is applied by hand, each bag sealed individually. It’s a painstaking process that is astounding to watch, knowing the reach of this one tiny producer. Available in Whole Foods Markets and independent health food stores for miles around, I could have never guessed that all of it came from such a humble beginning. First introduced to me through working at Health in a Hurry, it’s the only tofu we ever use, and it’s easy to taste why.

There’s a whole lot of passion going into those unassuming beige bricks. It’s not listed on the label, but easily detected in each bite.

Lest you think Bridge is a one-trick tofu factory, incredibly, they also produce the best seitan I’ve had the pleasure of cooking. If ever seitan shows up in my recipes, you can rest assured that Bridge is the brand going into the mix. Also churning out amazake and a tuna-like tofu salad, their home base may not be impressive, but what they manage to create within its confines sure is.

27 thoughts on “Take Me to Tofu Town

  1. Awesome! I’ve never seen this brand for sale in California– wish it were… I usually only buy imported tofu from Japanese markets, especially since those are the best places to get the not-firm-at-all silken varieties that are SO good raw. I like them not just with soy sauce (or ponzu) and scallions on top, like you mentioned, but also with a dab of freshly grated ginger.

    (When I first moved to Japan, that type of tofu was the bane of my restaurant-going existence, because as hard as I tried, I couldn’t pick up a single piece of it from a communal tofu + salad bowl to move it to my own little plate; as dextrous as I am at chopsticks with everything else, my chopsticks would slice right through the tofu, so I’d often end up cutting cubes of the communal tofu in half, then in fourths, then in eighths… before someone helped me transfer it to my plate. It took months before I figured out how to apply only the gentlest pressure to it!)

  2. It is very nice to see it done the old fashion way. Many places here in Hong Kong, even just right in the restaurants, make their own fresh tofu and soy milk. Once you try the fresh stuff you never want the stuff from the factory again.

  3. Wow, how cool that you got an inside look in a tofu factory! I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on some. For me, I’ve never had tofu that is like “amazing” ya know. I’m usually just like, “enh, its just tofu”….but this sounds like it may stand out in a good way.

  4. I went to a Tofu factory once ( a small family run business in the international district in seattle) and couldnt stand the beany smell:) though the Tofu was so much more fresher and delicious.
    love your captures of the place.

  5. Isn’t it amazing to see how very small places can produce beautiful things? I have to confess I am not a huge fan of tofu but then again I also haven’t eaten it in a very very long time so reading your story of how this is made is actually tempting to give it another go. I don’t think this is a brand that we can get here so it’s a bit harder for me to find a good source!

  6. After suffering my way through the home production of tofu and knowing exactly how difficult it is to arrive at the perfect texture I am experiencing awe and lust at those delicious looking blocks of perfect tofu. Steve has been hounding me to make some more crock cheeze from our battered copy of Joanne Stepaniac’s cheeze bible and that tofu would make amazing crock cheeze. I love the look of that seitan and wish that we could buy seitan (at ALL) in the shops locally. My sad attempts left me with indigestion for weeks and a distinct desire to not repeat the process any day soon. Cheers for sharing this lovely post and that lovely lady with us. She looks like she could use a big hug and a nice confidence boost for her wonderful efforts :)

  7. it’s neat that you had this experience. i’ve been eating the bridge tofu for years and years. my local co-op has it in bulk, but i buy it in that little package when need be. they’re not too far away from where i live. friends of mine: http://seitanickitchens.wordpress.com/ make a better seitan, but i do like the bridge’ as well.

  8. Reblogged this on threechickstalkingaboutfood and commented:
    The Bridge Tofu factory reminds me of the organic tofu beanery in Berkeley, called Tofu Yu LLC, which has a catering and a store front with a deli counter that displays all sorts of tofu and tofu dishes. I keep meaning to visit. They also sell their products at several Bay Area farmers markets and organic grocery stores (visit their blog for a complete list), including the Santa Rosa Community Market and many Whole Foods.
    In addition, there’s an organic tofu factory in Oakland, called Hodo Soy Beanery, where you can take a tour once a month. The next tour is on Wednesday, 10 October at 10:30 am for $12. They sell their tofu at some Bay Area and LA area farmers markets, too, including the Saturday San Francisco Ferry Building market, and at Whole Foods.
    It’s difficult for me to pick which beanery to visit; maybe I’ll go see both of them!

  9. That looks absolutely amazing. (Although I’m not sure I should have read your post before breakfast – tofu is one of my favourite foods.) That place looks like a wonderful treasure-trove of beany goodness – I think I might have to incorporate tofu into my breakfast…

  10. What an awesome factory visit! Seeing it made must have been surreal–and the photos you took are gorgeous. Wonderful there was so much light in there!

  11. I love buying tofu from a small, local source, and Bridge looks like a great one. Fresh-made tofu is a whole different product from the packaged stuff in the store, but it sounds like you can find Bridge tofu right at Whole Foods! I’m curious to know if you got to try some just-made Bridge tofu and how it compares to the Bridge tofu you get at the store. Maybe they deliver every day?

  12. What a pleasant surprise to see our local tofu factory featured in your blog. My husband goes to this factory every week to buy our tofu for our weekly meals. You are so right to point out that the tofu is so good and tasty that you can eat it as is or just with a bit of soy sauce. My daughter who is now ten has been eating this tofu since she was 2 years old and she absolutely LOVES it, in any way I prepare it, in tofu salads, grilled, baked, pan fried, etc. For our Thanksgiving meal this is the best tofu for our stuffed tofu-not-a turkey. I’ve been planning on writing about the many ways I use this tofu in our blog, and I hope I will do in the near future.

    Our local vegan restaurant, It’s Only Natural, only uses this brand of tofu and every time we go there we buy just “baked tofu” for the kids and they gobble it all up. I HIGHLY recommend it. Thank you so much for posting and for the nice pictures.

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