At many a Tex Mex restaurant, the vegetarian/vegan menu is often short, with offerings listed such as bean burrito, rice and beans or a salad. One of our favorite, locally owned Tex Mex establishments doesn't offer burritos... they say it's their "thing," their distinguishing factor, to not have them on the menu. But a national chain upped the ante and created a game-changer for those who avoid meat by adding tofu to their menu and calling them Sofritas. The brand, staying true to its messaging, while growing the brand's offering, has maintained their "healthy eating, locally sourced" promise.
Chipotle, a brand owned by McDonald's, offers "high quality, delicious food quickly with an experience that not only exceeds, but redefines the fast food experience." According to their website, the company "sources local and organic ingredients when possible, supports and sustains family farmers who respect the land and the animals in their care and whenever possible use meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or added hormones." The same holds true when the company introduced sofritas to their east coast menus last month.
The tofu is sourced from a San Francisco tofu maker, Hodo Soy, who brought the product to Chipotle in early 2013. “Chipotle’s mission aligns with our own, which is to offer food that isn’t highly processed, is made with ingredients you know, and has outstanding flavor,” says Tsai in an Edible East Bay interview. "Hodo Soy Beanery is championing its relationship with this casual restaurant empire, which chose Hodo’s tofu for a new vegan filling dubbed Sofritas. Chipotle, with more than 1,400 locations nationwide, now offers its California customers this meat alternative in its signature burritos, bowls, salads, and tacos. Think tofu 2.0 for the masses." (Sofritas are also available on the east coast in Maryland, Richmond, Philly and Washington, D.C.)
Over the past five years, the Hodo Soy has experienced a 75% growth, which is contributed to the simple fact that the tofu is said to taste better than 99% of the tofu currently available on the market. (I haven't personally tasted the tofu, so I can't comment on that statement). Once only sold at farmers markets, Hodo Soy is now available in grocery stores and Costco's throughout the Bay Area.
For now, the supplier says he can "handle the projected demand," but as sales pick up, he will most likely build a production facility on the east coast.
Tofu is made by grinding organic beans into a slurry and heating to 200 degrees F, turning them into soy milk. After adding a coagulant, the milk turns into tofu. A top the firm tofu is a skin-like layer, known as yuba, which must be removed by hand. Removing the cream is a process too sensitive to be done with machines.
Tofu is porous and packed in water. Once drained and pressed between towels to remove the water, tofu takes on the flavor of the foods with which it's prepared. (Side note: the first time I made tofu, I didn't know I had to press out the water, and the dish turned out mushy and packed with water, rather than flavor. If you've made the same mistake, try to create the dish once more, but this time, press the tofu ahead of time!) For Sofritas, the tofu is shredded thinly, rather than the normal cubed, to maximize surface area and soak up and absorb the flavor of the peppers and spices.
Interested in how to make your own tofu? Stay tuned. But, in the meantime, if you're inspired to create your own tofu dish, head to the Hodo Soy website for a great recipe selection. If you are in the Bay Area, head to the Beanery for a public tour that are offered on the First Friday of the month from 10:30 -11:30 a.m. To purchase a ticket ($12) to an upcoming tour click here.
Have a favorite tofu recipe? Share in the comment section below.