Hodo Soybeanery’s incredibly versatile fresh Yuba

State Bird Provisions is one among many to regularly feature Hodo Soybeanery’s legendary Yuba skin.  If you’re wondering what that is, it’s the skin that forms on the vat of soybean milk as it’s being turned into tofu.  It’s considered a delicacy and after tasting it, we know why.  See what they do here. Or watch Daniel Patterson make it look easy here.  SF Chronicle’s article on Hodo Soybeanery’s Yuba is pretty much a who’s who of CA restaurants.

We spoke with Minh Tsai, of Hodo Soybeanery, to learn more about his process.

We chatted with Minh Tsai, founder of Hodo Soybeanery, to learn more about the roots of Hodo.

SFB: What made you specialize in tofu and yuba?

Minh: I always loved to cook, and here in the Bay Area in the early 2000s, the organic farming & artisan food world was starting to gain a foothold in the minds & mouths of folks here.

All areas of the food world here were beginning to produce wonderful raw ingredients and products, however, something so simple, clean, and basic as tofu, a staple in the Asian family pantry was missing.

Fresh tofu and yuba, traditionally made and consumed daily in Asia were not easily found on Asian nor Western store shelves at that time, so I decided to learn how to make a tofu with traditional culinary value, the highest nutritional value, and with the cleanest ingredients available to me.

After an enthusiastic response at the Palo Alto Farmers’ Market and growing demand through word-of-mouth, I left my career in finance. In 2004, I founded what would become Hodo – a company whose mission is to craft the highest quality, best-tasting, freshest soymilk, tofu, and yuba possible.

SFB: Your tofu and yuba are different than much of the stuff that’s commercially available.  What experience/person inspired you to do things this way? Is it harder to do things your way?  Why do you do it anyway?

Minh: Before immigrating to the US, I grew up in Vietnam, where some of my earliest memories were going to the tofu stand with my grandfather.  These early food memories have been with me every step of the way in learning how to make tofu.

We don’t want to make a product that has a good pedigree (organic, non-GMO, US sourced beans) and made by hand, then not have the texture & flavor profile be flexible enough for different applications.  We feel like tofu and yuba are often considered secondary ingredients, should be cheap, or are a substitute for meat and for that reason, the tofu space has not changed for decades in this country.

We do a lot of tweaking in our production process to ensure artisan quality, especially as we’ve grown, since we do have to mechanize things to be viable.  However, we choose to use machines to do the “hard” work and still need people to do the artisan aspects of our food making to get the right final product. Our yuba, to this day is still 100% hand-made.  We’re proud of that! Other tofu makers will ask us how we do it; when we say we do it the old-school way of hand cutting and folding, they are usually incredulous.

SFB: Anything you wish chefs (and servers, and consumers) realized about your product that they might not know?  

Minh: We’re extremely humbled by the fact that so many types of customers use our tofu and yuba.  We’re incredibly surprised that the range of customers is so diverse and use our products in vastly different ways.  In some sense, that’s a testament to the product itself and is based on an immediate visceral reaction after tasting. (We’ve had many home and professional cooks tell us they hated tofu until they tried ours.) By chefs, it hasn’t been pigeon-holed as an Asian culinary ingredient.

Our range of clients goes from Japanese and Chinese to French, Mexican and from food trucks to Michelin Star restaurants. On that front, we’re lucky to have innovative chefs understand tofu and yuba simply to be a food ingredient to be treated like any other. We do a lot of education and work with chefs to come up with ways of incorporating our products into their repertoires.

By Diego Maldonado

Moody’s, aka New England Charcuterie

We are proud to partner with Joshua Smith’s New England Charcuterie.  Known well to most of you, his hand-made salume is outstanding and we are pleased to be adding his product to our curated line up of top-notch cured meats, smoked meats, salume and charcuterie.

About Josh

In their own words, “Joshua’s career began at Dean & DeLuca, where he apprenticed under French Master Chef Charles Semail, learning to balance the old with the new. After Dean & DeLuca, the Four Seasons hospitality group in Seattle and Boston hired Joshua to train new teams, write new menus, and launch new concepts for the brand.

The mission is simple: make the best charcuterie with the most advanced production technologies, while remaining true to culinary origins and techniques. Joshua has traveled throughout Europe, researching best practices; he has sourced custom-made machinery; and he has partnered with the best farms and growers – both locally and around the world – to ensure the highest quality product.

The results speak for themselves. With 1,000–2,000 lbs. of charcuterie produced each day, both small and large customers are provided with quality products through New England Charcuterie’s wholesale production and distribution:

When in season, New England Charcuterie processes 6–12 whole animals each week for local farmers, giving them added value by producing hot dogs, salami, etc., they can then sell to their own customers. By always separating each farmer’s order, they are guaranteed that the products they receive from New England Charcuterie use only their own animals.

Creating custom salami using unique products like Trillium Brewing Company’s beer and grapes from select Napa Valley wine producers is a perfect complement to the daily production at New England Charcuterie.”

Now Offering:

Finocchiona: a classic Tuscan sausage dating back to the middle ages, featuring fennel seed.  In Tuscany, where fennel is abundant, it is thought that it was a cheaper alternative to expensive and scarce black pepper.   Like many other ingredients that were used before modern refrigeration, fennel was appreciated for it’s strong flavor.  Key flavors: fennel, garlic, white wine.

Nduja: an Italianization of the French “andouille,” on which it is loosely based, nduja is a spreadable salami that includes off cuts, offal and a healthy dose of spicy Calabrian chiles.  Versatile as far as salami goes, thanks to it’s spreadable texture, this can go in a crock in the center of the table, or crisped up in the pan.

Hot Sopressata: with origins in southern Italy, this salami also gets it’s heat from Calabrian chiles.

Coppa: essentially a shortened version of “capicola,” this is a whole-muscle salume made from the shoulder.  The word comes from “capo” which means head, and “collo” which means neck.  This is a dry-cured pork shoulder that’s been cured with raw turbinado sugar, paprika, coriander and orange zest.

Lomo: cured pork loin, many versions made around the world.  This one includes black pepper, chili flake, paprika and lemon zest.

Bresaola: historically hailing from Lombardy, similar to coppa, but made from beef, this whole-muscle salume is made from beef eye round, and cured with juniper, coriander, thyme and rosemary.


By Diego Maldonado

Chi Kitchen: Kimchi Comes Alive

There’s mass-produced kimchi, and then there’s stuff that will blow your mind.  The kimchi from Chi Kitchen, in Rhode Island, is the latter variety.  We asked chef/owner Minnie Luong her secret.  Here’s what she had to say.

SFB: What made you decide to go into kimchi making?  

ML: I grew up in a food-centric Asian family. When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of Asian ingredients readily available in grocery stores, so we grew and preserved our own foods, which made an indelible impression on me as a kid.  It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole when it comes to kimchi and fermentation- the first time I made it in my apartment in Cambridge, as a culinary experiment, it was a complete disaster. Yet six years later, I was living in Los Angeles and became completely enamored with Korean food, so I decided to try kimchi making again and became totally hooked on fermentation and kimchi.  We wanted to create a healthy, Asian food brand with high quality ingredients without MSG, GMOs, and preservatives, so we decided to focus creating small batch, hand-crafted Korean style kimchi packed with umami and probiotics.

SFB: Your kimchi is different than the stuff that’s commercially available.  What experience/person inspired you to do things this way?  Is it harder to do things your way?  Why do you do it anyway?

ML: We refuse to take any shortcuts with our kimchi making process.  Making kimchi in the way that we do is extremely labor intensive.  We chop our Napa cabbage, and make our paste and mix everything by hand.  I don’t go to the gym, but I have some serious kimchi muscles now.

“We named our company “Chi Kitchen” for a reason.  Chi means energy and life force–and the way we hand-craft our kimchi truly reflects the spiritual and physical energy we put into what we do.”


SFB:  Anything you wish chefs (and servers, and consumers) realized about your product that they might not know?

ML: Kimchi has garnered a lot of acclaim in the food media over last several years, but it’s important to remember that kimchi has been made and enjoyed for 2,300 years. I believe that we carry certain special foods forward with us for a reason. I find it fascinating is that the red pepper in kimchi came from the Americas, and was introduced to Korea in the 17th century through Portuguese traders. Kimchi is a unique, special food with cultural and historical significance,  and I love being able to be able to share it with others.

SFB: What do you wish people realized about the commercial/commodity/mass- or factory-produced version of your product that they probably don’t?

ML:  We found that there were a lot of kimchis on the market that had MSG and preservatives, and we didn’t get that–it’s already preserved through the fermentation process. We found a lot of health food kimchis were made with green cabbage as opposed to Napa cabbage, and lacked the spice, punch and umami that gives kimchi such a desirable, unique flavor profile.  So we decided to create a kimchi for foodies and kimchi lovers to enjoy.

SFB: What are your hopes for the future of your field?

ML: Since 2010 kimchi has a 30% increase on restaurant menus year over year. We hope that fermented, probiotic kimchi will become a staple ingredient that people enjoy for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

SFB: What is the most satisfying part of what you do?

ML: Kimchi is a delightful food with a lot of storytelling behind it. People are always sharing stories with us about their neighbor or relative who used to make kimchi and bury it in the backyard.

“It’s hard work, but it’s incredibly satisfying to feel like I actually created something with my hands at the end of the day.” -ML

~now available in the half gallon pail, exclusively through Specialty Foods Boston~
By Diego Maldonado

Vermont Quince Co.

We first met Nan Stefanik back in January of this year.  She unexpectedly arrived at our doorstep and blew us away with a freshly-made batch of quince paste, aka membrillo, that she had made herself.

As soon as we tasted it, we knew it was something special.  Made in Vermont, from regionally-sourced in-season quince, Nan has a coterie of farms in Vermont and New Hampshire, including Alyson’s Apple Orchards, where she buys the nicest quince she can find.  She then painstakingly turns it into the most fresh, true-to-fruit tasting membrillo we’ve had.  This lady knows her quince- as you’ll see, when you read the story of Vermont Quince, in her own words, below.

Quince, quince, quince.
A little light reading.

In 2020, people throughout New England are enjoying the Common Quince on their breakfast/dinner tables and cheese plates, at favorite restaurants, and in their home landscapes.  Many more young children are aware that the quince is in the same family as the apple and pear and that it can thrive in our climate. Existing old quince trees have been identified, cared for if necessary, and highlighted as important horticultural features in the neighborhood and larger community.  Much more regionally produced quince is available in the wholesale pipeline and the Connecticut River valley area where Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts meet is known for its availability of several varieties of Cydonia oblonga.

– Vermont Quince business plan, updated March 2017

My fascination with quince paste began on a trip with my teenaged son to Spain several years ago. The preserve’s ubiquity – albeit in different colors, thickness, consistency, and flavorings but nearly always served with Manchego – led me to wonder why I didn’t already know about it. Imagine my delight upon learning later that same year that a friend of a friend here in southeastern Vermont had three productive quince trees bearing more fruit than he could enjoy.

With the next three harvests from those trees, I experimented with dozens of quince recipes found online and in old ethnic cookbooks. I befriended the “queen of quince”, Simply Quince author Barbara Ghazarian to get ideas about spices and seasonings. I concocted myriad savory dishes, candies, syrups and of course, preserves including countless variations of quince paste which I paired with Vermont’s fabulous cheeses for holiday gifts. Family and friends soon began encouraging me to turn what probably seemed a bit of an obsession with quince into a business.

In 2012 I took the plunge, incorporating Vermont Quince and signing up for business advice from the VT Small Business Development Corporation. I long had been curious whether the skills cultivated over a 23-year nonprofit/public interest development career were transferable to the private sector. My market research quickly revealed that almost all of the quince paste found locally was made in Italy or Spain. I also learned that despite quince trees being commonplace in Colonial homesteads, very few commercial growers on the entire Eastern seaboard had more than a handful of trees and large quantities of regional wholesale quince were and remain hard to come by.  Thus encouraging both backyard and commercial growers to plant Cydonia oblonga has become a critical component of Vermont Quince’s social mission to reintroduce ‘this ancient fruit for the modern table.”

At this time, all of the fruit used in Vermont Quince’s product line of quince condiments and preserves was and is grown at Alyson’s Orchard in Walpole, New Hampshire and in backyards throughout southeast Vermont.  In the last two years, we have processed nearly four tons of local quince which we freeze in slices and puree, and then make small batches throughout the year. To date, distribution of Vermont Quince products largely has been through a single Vermont-based distributor, a few large wholesale accounts, and direct to customers at festivals and farmers’ markets who happily participate in the crowd-sourcing of new recipes.  Given the relative scarcity of New England grown quince, Vermont Quince has opted to establish ourselves as a regional purveyor of specialty quince products rather than send precious fruit to markets that have more quince than we do!

Early in the multi-year (and ongoing) product development process of the dulce de membrillo or quince paste, we discovered that classic recipes call for equal parts fruit and sugar.  The amount of organic cane sugar added to Vermont Quince’s quince puree is 65% of the fruit weight and we also add a bit of Vermont maple syrup and organic lemon juice.

We have been gratified when, in a number of blind taste tests, local chefs chose Vermont Quince paste over the imported brands they were serving.  We believe that one of the main reasons our paste is preferred is that we schedule our small batches every 4-6 weeks throughout the year and are able to inform our relatively small number of large customers when the next “fresh” batch will be cooked.

Packaging and selling our paste as a perishable product is a decision made to help ensure that it does not get lost among other preserves on shop shelves.

In terms of sustainability, Vermont Quince’s arrangement to procure all of Alyson’s Orchards’ wholesale fruit is obviously a lynchpin to all that we do.  Another important partner is Grafton Village Cheese Company which provides us with low-cost storage, distribution support, and serves as our largest wholesale customer. Vermont Quince is licensed to use the kitchen at Harlow Farm, one of the oldest organic farms in Vermont, for raw fruit processing and tiny batch seasonal preserves production, and a small local community kitchen (equipped with funds from a grant proposal that I wrote) for ingredient preparation and product development.   Larger batches of Vermont Quince products sold to wholesalers and distributors are now co-packed in the commercial kitchen of Fox Meadow Farm in southern Vermont (although I continue to be personally involved in raw fruit processing and ingredient sourcing).

We work hard to make tasty quince products using local quince and high-quality ingredients, and feel honored and grateful every time a customer selects Vermont Quince paste over products shipped half a world away.  Thank you for joining the quince revival here in New England!


Nan Stefanik

Owner/product developer

By Diego Maldonado

Hayden Mills: Heirloom Semolina UPDATED w/ pasta ratio


What do legendary pizza maker Chris Bianco and pasta master Marc Vetri have in common?  Sourcing heirloom durum wheat from Hayden Mills.

Hayden Mills, in Queen’s Creek, Arizona is reviving old landrace varieties of wheat.  Among them is the outstanding Bluebeard Durum Wheat.  Deep golden in color, it makes an incredibly aromatic, toothsome pasta.  We have Bluebeard Durum in three grinds: whole berries (for grinding yourself), semolina, and durum flour.  This is the variety to make extruded and dried pastas with.  See it for yourself here.

Hayden Mills is also bringing about a revival of White Sonoran Wheat, a slow food that is historically important to the region.  Native to the Sonoran desert, which spans Arizona, California, and on the Mexican side of the border Baja California, Sinaloa and Sonora.  This is the original wheat used for flour tortillas thanks to it’s glutinous, elastic qualities.  We have White Sonoran All-Purpose, which is ideal for tortillas and would probably make a killer biscuit, and the 00 pasta flour, which makes an excellent fresh pasta.

Hayden Mills also makes extruded pastas from their semolina.  Their suggested ratio for extruded pasta: 6000 g semolina to 1400 g water

They grind all semolina and flours to order for us, and it is kept in cold storage in our warehouses.

Now Offering:

Blue Beard Wheat Berries, 50 lb. bag

Blue Beard Semolina, 25 lb. bag

Blue Beard Durum Flour, 25 lb. bag

White Sonoran AP Flour, 10 lb. bag

White Sonoran “00” Pasta Flour, 10 or 25 lb. bag

Pizza Flour, 25 lb. bag (a blend of White Sonoran, Red Fife & Blue Beard)

Tibetan Purple Barley Berries, 5 lb. bag

Tibetan Purple Barley Flour, 5 lb. bag

Did You Know?

There are three main species of wheat that we cook with: hard, soft, and durum.  The big difference in the durum-variety wheats, for cooking purposes, is it’s relative plasticity, as opposed to elasticity.  Elasticity is ideal for breadmaking, because you want a gluten structure that can be stretched by the air bubbles created during fermentation.  Plasticity, on the other hand, has less spring-back: if you use force to change the shape, that shape will stick, and that’s exactly what we want for pasta-making purposes.  You want your pasta shapes firm, rather than elastic.Durum wheat varieties are more plastic than they are elastic, making them great for pasta, and less great for bread- usually, if used in bread-making, they have to be cut with other flours to get the same rise.


By Diego Maldonado