Food: Soy Story

A health-minded Manoa takeout restaurant wins tofu converts.


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Cleanliness is next to tofuness. Munehiro Yamada starts the soymilk machine, imported from Japan. photo: Ron Yeung
Soy to the World has the cleanest kitchen I’ve ever seen. It’s so sparkling that if you dropped something on the floor, you might shrug, pick it up and pop it into your mouth. This takeout shop in the Manoa Marketplace specializes in organic soy milk and tofu, and, as its CEO, Munehiro Yamada, notes, “Making tofu takes care, as it spoils easily. Things have to be clean. Also, you have to concentrate.”

Yamada’s background in organic agriculture in Japan lead him to open the restaurant one year ago. “My main purpose was to bring organic soy to Hawai‘i,” he says. According to Yamada, soy’s health benefits include being rich in minerals and isoflavones, and reducing cholesterol. It’s also a good source of protein. Soybeans are versatile, too: The restaurant’s chef uses the okara, the insoluable part left when the soybeans are processed for tofu, to add non-caloric fiber to dishes such as potato loaf, and even in cookies and brownies.

Popular items include smoothies and soy ice cream, as well as the fresh, housemade tofu and soy milk in creamy and extra-creamy varieties. The store’s signature item, though, is the zaru tofu ($5), a soft tofu. The tofu drains in a basket, and has about the same creamy texture as buffalo mozzarella, with a very mild flavor.

Customer Mizuho Karo often finds herself in line for the zaru tofu. “My son is one and a half, and since having their tofu,” she says, “he spits out any other kind.”

Soy to the World, Manoa Marketplace (next to First Hawaiian Bank); 988-8555.

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