Montreal profile: A tale of tofu

Eating ethically isn’t especially easy.

For one thing, it means cutting down on my meat consumption, at least until I find more sources of meat that my stomach can stomach, now that it is actually attached to my brain. Also, Noshette is a born-again omnivore and it still getting her meat-feet wet, so we are eating tofu on a regular basis to get our protein fix. I was never much into tofu - I was more the kind of guy (remember, I said “was”) who would drive 45 minutes to Plattsburgh, New York with his best friend, walk into Taco Bell and order everything on the menu and then eat it, in one sitting. (Please note that I haven’t walked into a Taco Bell in over a decade.)

A lot of tofu sold in Montreal grocery stores is produced in factories located in industrial parts of town, or even outside the city where land is cheap and there are no prying eyes.tofus.gif

The above photo shows some brands of tofu on offer in Montreal grocery stores. They range from Horium - a smallish family-run company that produces organic tofu, to Liberté - one of Quebec’s largest dairy producers who added tofu to their product line to ensure that they can generate revenues from non-dairy consumers. Liberté has absolutely no information about tofu on their website which also claims that they will “establish a Sustainable Development Action Plan” in 2007. Somehow I doubt their plan will be sustainable beyond government regulations, which will likely have been established by a committee under the influence of some Liberté shareholders. (Am I becoming far too jaded and mistrustful? – I wish I were.)

As I was strolling down Parc avenue last week, I noticed this store, which I may have glanced at before but never really took notice of: T & S Health Food.



ernest.gifUnlike most health food store display windows, this one features eight-foot tall chopsticks poised above Goliath sized cubes of tofu and bites of sushi. I walked in and was immediately greeted by Ernest (pictured at right), one the shop’s owners. He was more than happy to let me know what they do, since it isn’t apparent at first glance and they are still figuring out their marketing plan, which definitely needs some tweaking. Ernest and his wife are from Hong Kong and make all the stores’ soy-based products, like tofu, soymilk, tempeh, soy hummus, soy tzaztiki, etc. They are partners with a couple from South Korea, Tim and Joanna, who make the sushi, sweet potato noodles, kimchee, and a few other goodies.

Ernest was beaming while he told me that their soy products are made with Quebec non-GMO organic whole soybeans. He added that they use the whole bean, which according to Ernest, most companies do not (he says they sell the fiber to farms). The resulting products contain more fiber and protein than the commercially-made competition. T & S does not advertise, relying solely on word-of-mouth, but Ernest says his clientele is growing fast, and he is already supplying a few restaurants and some people from Cirque du Soleil.

I got a quick tour of the tofu making process, which doesn’t seem very complicated: [1] The soybeans are run through a press which separates the liquid from the fiber, [2] the liquid is heated in special tofu machines , and then [3] pressed it into blocks in a hydraulic press.

[1] r-047.jpg  [2] r-046.jpg  [3] r-048.jpg

He also showed me, and gave me samples of,  some of  his other products:

(from left to right: Soy hummus, soymilk, tofu, DIY tempeh starter kits, kimchee)

I walked out of T & S Health with a block of firm tofu that cost considerably less than commercially-made tofu, and also with the knowledge that my money was going straight to Ernest and his wife along with Tim and Joanna. The tofu found its way into a clichéd but delicious stir-fry. I also picked up some soymilk, which was thick and beany, and some tempeh, which I have yet to cook. Any tempeh recipes are welcome in the comments section below.

The only disappointed party was Buddy, my cat, who was not happy that the white liquid in that jug didn’t come from a cow.



8 Responsesto “Montreal profile: A tale of tofu”

  1. Aaron the Devourer says:

    Crumble and brown the tempeh in a little bit of oil, along with some minced onions and celery. Toss with a tablespoon or so of tamari and a sprinkle of celery seed, and mix with mayonaise to make a really yummy sandwich filling. It’s something like chicken salad with bacon but way better for you (and still delicious).

  2. Jon says:

    What corner of the street is it on?

  3. I love tofu. I know, that’s odd. Most people eat it to be vegetarian instead of meat. The problem is I can’t get it easily since we only go in town shopping once every one to three months. One of those quirks of living out in the sticks. *shrug*

  4. Lily says:

    Wow, looks great. I’ve been looking for something like that. I second Jon’s request for more specific directions!

  5. Nosher of the North says:

    T & S Health Food is located at 5151 Parc avenue, near Fairmount. Noshette is making the tempeh tonight!!

  6. brad says:

    That corner of Montréal (Mile End, I think) is starting to get quite interesting. In addition to the main attraction of Fairmount Bagel, where you can watch the city’s best bagels being made by hand and cooked in a wood-fired oven, there’s also Planete Monde, a very nice little boutique that sells fair-trade soaps including those made by the Arghand Cooperative in Afghanistan (run by former NPR reporter Sarah Chayes, it provides jobs to Afghan women and an alternative to opium poppy cultivation to Afghan farmers). There’s also a stunning Japanese paper store…I haven’t bought anything there but love looking around.

  7. Alexia Cirigliano says:

    You know what I love? A good tempeh rueben, the recipe for which I stole from my favorite healthfood store here in Worcester, MA.
    1. Take the tempeh and cut it into strips
    2. Steam it over boiling water until it gets soft, but not mushy (I know, not very exact)
    3. Then, once it is soft, marinade it in soy sauce to make it salty, maybe 1/2 an hour, or liquid aminos.
    4. Then, make the russian dressing part of the rueben sauce with mayonaise and ketchup mixed together until the whole thing is a shocking shade of orange
    5. Get some FABULOUS saurkraut and equally fabulous pumpernickel bread (or dark rye, or light rye, or marble rye) and slap together the dressing, the tempeh, and the saurkraut between the bread- and enjoy!!