"It's clear that not all soybeans are created equal."

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20090617tofuclose.jpgDo you ever, when eating tofu, stop and really focus hard on it, asking yourself: "Am I just eating this because it's cheap, inoffensive protein, or does it in fact have flavor? I mean, can something really have no flavor? Can you describe the taste of water? Can I pinpoint the effect of tofu on my taste buds?"

Well, if you did, you would probably recognize that tofu does have a taste, but a vague one. It's kind of vegetable-y and ground-y, but what we usually praise tofu for its ability to assume the form of whatever entities with which it mixes—kind of like me in middle school! Impressive.

Well, I have discovered a brand of tofu that is undeniably, immediately, and gloriously flavorful. It's called Otokomae, which my Japanese hairdresser (Kelly, a layering-master at Lotus Salon on Prince Street) tells me is a humorous phrase that means something like "Handsome Man." I'm calling it "Hot Dude" tofu, and the insane website features my new favorite theme song.

Sunrise Mart is very excited to be bringing the stuff to New York every week from Kyoto.

They've sold it sporadically in the past, but, thanks to popular demand, have recently secured regular distribution. They will be featuring different types—all with different funny names—from week to week, at both Sunrise locations. Kelly was also thrilled to hear that Hot Dude has made its way to our town.

Because it is not vague or muted, it's not difficult to describe the flavor of this tofu. If my apartment was a molecular gastronomy restaurant and I served it to you in some kind of futuristic vessel, it would be called "edamame cream" and I would win many awards. That's what it tastes like: green and custard-esque, and sweet. I cannot and do not wish to put even a drop of soy sauce anywhere near this Dude.

Like many eye-opening artisan foods, the magic seems to be in the ingredients. In this case, it's clear that not all soybeans are created equal. The organic tofu I normally buy contains the same ingredients as the Otokomae: soy beans and magnesium chloride, but the two are worlds apart, flavor-wise.

Otokomae is also extremely fresh and highly perishable. Shing, the manager I spoke to at the Soho Sunrise Mart, told me that Hot Dude can only be kept in the fridge for a few days, where regular packaged tofu lasts for a couple of months. One more typical artisan detail: Hot Dude is not a cheap date, but he's worth it, at least on occasion. The three-serving package I bought, the "Johnny" variety, cost $5.99.

Sunrise Mart

494 Broome Street, New York NY 10012 (b/n W. Broadway and Wooster Street; map)
212-219-0033

29 3rd Avenue, New York NY 10003 (b/n St. Marks and 9th Street; map)
212-598-3040

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