Three Local Tofu Factories

Today, I present to you something a bit less depressing: tofu! My partner, Adam, and I eat a lot of tofu. We’ve largely been purchasing our tofu from Thanh Son Tofu which is a little over a mile or so from our house (they are also carried at several local grocery stores including Uwajimaya). We’ve known about two other local tofu factories very close by as well so today we decided to get some from each and compare!

The Adventure

Seattle is gorgeous this time of year so we headed out on our bikes just before lunch to our first destination, ChuMinh Tofu and Deli:

ChuMinh Storefront

Since it was lunch, we got some food from their steam tray (everything vegan!): vegan chow mein with stir-fried tofu vegetables (bok choi, cauliflower, mushrooms, etc) and a container of red coconut tofu curry. Otherwise, we asked for a couple pounds of tofu which was cut off a large block sitting on a metal sheet pan, then packaged in a simple plastic bag on a tray.

We ate our lunch on a bit of green space between Boren and Yesler. My curry was spectacular: incredibly rich coconut milk, spicy and the tofu was exactly right in the dish. The chow mein was a bit more pedestrian (except being egg-free), but all the veggies were fresh and cooked properly. The tofu in it was obviously their fried variety cut into thin strips and fried with the rest. Tasty!

The next stop was our beloved Thanh Son:

Thanh Son Tofu

Adam went in by himself because there’s not really a good place to lock up bikes. Apparently it was mobbed so it took a whole five minutes! They sell other food (for takeout only) but we haven’t really explored that much. We usually just go for the tofu. He got three blocks, still warm.

Next, we biked the steep hill up Yesler, then down 20th to Northwest Tofu:

Northwest Tofu

Northwest is definitely the most like a restaurant. When I walked in I was directed way to the back, down a hallway, to the very back of the building. They weren’t making any tofu but I got to see the works! Thanh Son does their work in a back room and you can’t really see it. I asked for two pounds from them and was offered two blocks. She came back with a watery bag with more squared-off blocks than Thanh Son and warned me it was just made so was still a bit soft.

On the way home we stopped off at an overlook over the freeway on the south end of Judkins Park:

I-90 From Judkins Park

At home, I weighed each tofu (after removing from any packaging) and then cut up and froze most of it. Fresh tofu like this just does not keep (even in water, we only get a week before it loses its luster). But, fortunately, previously frozen tofu is tasty and has an interesting and versatile texture. The bags of tofu:

Tofu from Three Factories

After cutting up into one to two centimeter wide sticks, I bagged it up to freeze, but I saved enough for some meals and the tasting. Then we did some gardening (tomato and pepper plants in the ground now!)

The Tasting

I pulled the saved blocks out and cut off a bit of each kind:

Tofu Tasters

Closer view of the ChuMinh:

ChuMinh Tofu

The Thanh Son:

Thanh Son Tofu

Northwest Tofu:

Northwest Tofu

During the tasting, we cleansed our palates with fresh watermelon between tofus1. We each tried all tofus (only slightly chill) with and without a bit of soy sauce. A blind taste wasn’t practical unfortunately. Perhaps we could get some friends together next time.

Both of us agree that all three tofus are much tastier and more interesting than supermarket tofu. The ChuMinh and Northwest were not as “beany” tasting as Thanh Son (to us this is a good thing, but your taste may vary). The ChuMinh was very, very smooth. The texture as it was eaten was almost like a puree or paste (in a good way!) It had a bit of calcium/chalk flavor but wasn’t terribly noticeable (soy sauce covered it easily, as would cooking with it). Adam noted that the ChuMinh, due to its firm but very smooth texture, would be really great in pureed mixtures (vegan dips, pudding, etc). The Northwest Tofu almost fell apart earlier but it had firmed up a bit after chilling (she did warn me it was really fresh!) It was smoother than the ChuMinh and had a very mild taste (though maybe slightly more chalky). Adam commented it was the best for dishes that call for silken tofu.

The Thanh Son, though, still has our hearts. It has a stronger taste that stands on its own, beany with almost no calcium or chalk flavor2. It was likely as fresh as Northwest’s, as it was still warm, but the texture is more firm and versatile for our purposes. When you eat it, it is not as smooth as the others, but it almost seems to break into many very small chunks. The beany taste, though, is probably what wins my heart. That said, all of these tofus can be eaten straight and cold and are interesting and tasty. Until I had Thanh Son tofu, I had never found “fresh” tofu by itself palatable.

Source Amount Price Price Per Weight
ChuMinh Tofu 3.36 pounds3 $1.25 per pound $1.25 per pound
Than Son Tofu 3.15 pounds $1.25 per block4 $0.84 per pound
Northwest Tofu 1.44 pounds $1 per block5 $0.72 per pound


So Northwest is by price the best deal, but only barely. In any case, they are all spectacularly cheap and delicious. Sometime we’ll have to make it at home.

Footnotes

  1. Okay, technically I just wanted to eat watermelon and we needed some kind of palate cleanser.

  2. You may wonder why I mention this. Tofu is commonly made with various salts that can taste kind of like chalk. At least to us.

  3. Adam actually asked for two pounds but she cut off two massive pieces. No worries: it will get eaten!

  4. They don’t really post prices and Adam bought one other item. From googling and the total amount he spent, we’re guessing $1.25 per block.

  5. Nortwest Tofu’s blocks were much closer to cube shape and hands it to you in plastic bag of water. Thanh Son sells in blocks that are three times long as they are wide (and a few centimeters thick) already wrapped in plastic (you need another bag anyway because they are still warm and exude tofu water). ChuMinh tofu cut theirs off a huge sheet right for us and bagged it.

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