Yo, Soy

Though still a rare delicacy outside of most Asian cultures, yuba has slowly developed a foothold here in North America thanks largely to one shining example produced right in my backyard. Hodo Soy, better known for their contributions to Chipotle’s popular tofu sofritas and now their ready-to-eat line of seasoned savories still pushes eaters to expand their culinary boundaries. Yuba, the gossamer-thin skin that forms on top of soymilk as the first stage of the tofu-making process, is difficult to produce on any scale. Fragile, quick to spoil, it’s a treat that few have an opportunity to experience fresh. Most options are sold dried, to be rehydrated on demand, which obviously loses a good deal of flavor and texture in the process.

This isn’t the first I’ve shared about Hodo Soy nor extolled the virtues of Yuba, but it’s a delicious declaration that bears repetition. There’s no need to be redundant, however, since Hodo Soy has begun sharing the softer side of yuba that only a privileged few have ever had access to before. In the stages just prior to coagulating into consolidated, solidified sheets, there are actually a number of stages that the soybean slurry goes through, each one uniquely delectable in its own right. I was lucky enough to experience these earliest phases right when production was just barely getting underway, photographing some of the first batches for easy reference to the uninitiated.

If you should be so as lucky to get your hands on an ingredient of such superlative quality, the best (and most difficult) thing to do is not mess it up. Little is needed to enjoy the naturally rich, luscious character of young yuba. The very earliest harvest, Kumiage, is the style I savored the most, being completely unique from anything currently on the market, or available in restaurants, for that matter. Given a pinch of black salt, you would swear you were eating the creamiest scrambled eggs on the planet, yet no shells will be broken for this plant-based luxury. My favorite approach was to simply scoop out a tender mound into a bowl, drizzle with light soy sauce, and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and scallions. Nothing more, nothing less. Working in concert to bring out the nutty, umami notes of the whole bean, it’s unlike any other tofu experience to which I can compare.

Deeply savory yet just as versatile as the familiar beige bricks we’re all familiar with, I was delighted to try my hand at a sweet Philippine snack otherwise well out of reach: Taho. Made of soft soybean curds and lavished with tender tapioca pearls soaked in a sugary syrup, it’s a classic street food perfectly suited for the brutal heat of summer. Glittering in the sunlight, cherry- and mango-flavored popping boba sparkle atop this unconventional take on the concept, yet it’s truly the yuba beneath that shines.

These softer stages of soy supremacy can be purchased by the general public only online, not in stores, but it’s worth going all in for a big batch and sharing the riches with friends.

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Rolling in Doughnuts

Health food seekers and whole food eaters: avert your eyes. For the rest of us, there’s more to veganism than oil-free, salt-free, sugar-free kale salads, to the relief and rejoicing of foodies everywhere. You can bake a cake in the shape of a ring to make a mighty tasty dessert, as I’ve also done without shame, but the fact of the matter is that it will never be a doughnut.

Deep fried to a golden brown, grease-less finish, the sheen of warm icing moments away from fully solidifying, nothing can match the pure bliss of that first bite. A true, top-notch doughnut is a rare delicacy, and not just for the indulgence it represents. There’s only so often that one can justify the mess and potential safety hazard of a giant pot of bubbling oil on the stove, and then there’s the trouble of what to do with a batch of a dozen doughnuts or more. They don’t keep beyond a day, so unless you’ve got a party of pastry-lovers coming over, your efforts are doomed to go largely uneaten.

Vegan Donut Gelato is here to help. It’s the kind of shop that seems too good to be true, which undoubtedly was a factor in deciding on such a straight-forward, unpretentious name. Yes, it’s all vegan and yes, they’ve got all your sweet cravings covered. The classics are present of course, simple glazed and sprinkled little numbers that live up to the highest standards of childhood nostalgia, to more inventive flavors like matcha, blueberry, maple “bacon,” or cookies and cream. Don’t get me started on the apple fritters, which are the size of a dinner plate and loaded with soft, spiced apple chunks.

It’s hard to restrain yourself from ordering one of everything, especially because they really are cheaper by the dozen. Besides, when was the last time you had a bear claw? Or a maple bar? Or a Boston cream doughnut? Further complicating the final order is the incredibly kind owner, always at the counter, who’s liable to throw in a free doughnut hole or two to reward such enthusiasm.

Though it’s impossible to resist the colorful magnetism of the front display, don’t gloss over the other half of the shop’s name. Soy-based gelato is made in house with rotating seasonal flavors, offered by the scoop or wedged into an outrageous doughnut sandwich assembly. I can only speak for the eggnog flavor which is of course long gone at this point, but I truly hope it makes an early come back. The flawlessly smooth, creamy texture is better than almost all prepacked options scooped out of a carton, and possibly one of the best in the bay. It may get overshadowed by the deep fried delights, but you won’t regret topping off your treats with an extra frozen spoonful… Well, unless you’ve already eaten your weight in cinnamon twists. Not that I’d know anything about that.

Vegan Donut Gelato
411 E 18th St
Ste B
Oakland, CA 94606