SFoodie's countdown of our 92 favorite things to eat and drink in San Francisco, 2011 edition.
Quick, name three of the Bay Area's iconic foods: local Dungeness, naturally; levain raised by ambient yeasts, to be sure; but tofu skins? No way.
Yes way. Oakland-based Hodo Soy Beanery has been making the yellowed-ivory sheets ever since company founder Minh Tsai noted the lack of fresh yuba on this side of the Pacific. Crafting yuba is an expensive and time-consuming process, increasingly rare even in Asia, where it remains a product of mom and pop tofu makers (though dried tofu skins, which have a completely different texture from fresh yuba, does make it to the export market).
Actually, says Tsai, yuba isn't tofu skin at all, but the dried solids that rise to the surface of soy milk, like the plug of solid cream that coalesces at the neck of that bottle of Straus non-homogenized milk.
That explains yuba's buttery flavor and gently elastic texture, more like mozzarella di bufala than tofu. That explains yuba's popularity among a handful of local chefs: Coi's Daniel Patterson, Phil West of Range, and Alex Ong, who's been adding strips of yuba to pea-shoot dumplings on Betelnut's spring menu, an expression of local flavor every bit as authentic as cioppino.