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.
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.
Unlike 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:  The soybeans are run through a press which separates the liquid from the fiber,  the liquid is heated in special tofu machines , and then  pressed it into blocks in a hydraulic press.
  
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.
No related posts.