On Tuesday, January 6, 2015, Aloha Tofu opened a brand new retail shop & deli, commercial kitchen and frying operation in a 5,000 square foot space at Dole Cannery, where it was formerly Kaka’ako Bakers. Doing business as Aloha Tofu Town, this outlet location will augment their well established factory, still located at the “scenic” Akepo Lane in Kalihi, just minutes down the street from their new digs in Iwilei.
Their most popular firm and soft tofu will continue to be manufactured at the Akepo Lane factory, albeit in higher output than before. While their fried tofu products, including Aburage and Atsuage will be manufactured at the new frying facility at Dole Cannery.
Aloha Tofu Town’s takeout deli and gift shop is pretty straight forward with minimal seating. What’s super cool, and one of Noreen’s ideas (she’s the company’s marketing guru; the gal in the photo above behind the counter) is utilizing one of Aloha Tofu’s old Tofu manufacturing equipment to be used as their main service counter. Super-duper coolness!
In the photo above, Diner A gets a video on his new iPhone 6 Plus (still smells like the Apple Store) while operating the working Tofu packaging conveyor belt, as Misa Uyehara, who is the wife of owner and president of the company Paul Uyehara, looks on. It really does move as you turn that wheel. Neat-oh!
On the wall to the left is the Aloha Tofu Gift & Logo Shop where you can get Aloha Tofu hand towels, aprons, T-shirts, hats, recipe books and other cool stuff. You really should get that recipe book; it’s really, really good!
Making it all happen out front is a fully operational, brand new commercial kitchen they have in back, as shown above. Man, these guys are ready for BUSINESS!
As for grab ‘n go grindz, one of their mainstays is their signature Mame Gohan No Musubi as pictured above, which I’ll get more into shortly.
In their refrigerator case you can choose from a variety of Aloha Tofu Mousse flavors, including Green Tea, Cheesecake and Chocolate, as was available on this particular day (flavors may vary). This is also where you’ll find their new signature Aloha Tofu Okara Cream Puffs, only available Monday and Thursday. Also in there are their Oboro Tofu and Aloha Tofu Poke, which I’ll get more into shortly as well. And of course cold beverages, including Aloha Tofu Biru. Nah, just kidding, but that’s a great idea! Imagine beer distilled from soy beans!
For the most part, bento here are made to order, which is FANTASTIC. However, they do have a selection of grab ‘n go bento as well, depending on the day and time of your visit, which is pretty much like anywhere else.
Appropriately so, most dishes served here are “Tofu-centric”, however not always the case.
Aloha Tofu’s Oboro Tofu features Niragi — which is the coagulant use to make Tofu firm up — exclusively from the Big Island of Hawaii’s aqua farm off the Kona Coast. These are actually about to go into the refrigerator case with the Tofu Poke and Tofu Mousse.
What I notice about Aloha Tofu Town is that they focus on QUALITY, not quantity. That is surely the case with their daily menu.
While they have a full-blown commercial kitchen in back, they only offer one choice of bento each day of the week. ONE CHOICE! And I LOVE THAT! You know why? You know with that one bento, the cooks in back are going to pour their heart and soul into every single item that goes into that bento box. And that was indeed our experience from the several vistis we’ve already made here. Into that one bento they serve each day, they put ALOHA TOFU LOVE into it!
So basically that’s all you can choose from, bento-wise on Thursday, is their Aloha Shrimp Tofu with Chili Sauce, and believe me, for the price, portion, and most importantly, the QUALITY & FLAVOR, their prices are a BARGAIN!
Getting to the grindz, let’s start with their Monday Aloha Tofu Curry & Rice plate, which a coworker of mine ordered. He actually texted this photo to me as he was eating it, he was THAT excited about how freakin’ ono it was. His message along with this photo was simply “OMG!”. All he elaborated other than that is he’d order their Aloha Tofu Curry again, and again, and again! ‘Nuff said!
On the Friday prior, Diner A and Yours Truly got the Aloha Friday “1+2” Bento. which featured Ham & Tofu Katsu & Curry Saba, with like 4 different salads and rice included with it. We were lucky actually, as on Friday you’re supposed to pre-order your bento. Just so happens as walk-ins, they had extra ones made that someone ordered but never picked up, so we got ’em, pretty much right after they had just been made! Score!
That’s the Curry Saba on the rice (over the salad dressing packet) and Hijiki & Aburage Nimono in the right front corner pocket.
In “Angle B” abpve. that’s the Ham & Tofu Katsu over the green salad, with this most AMAZING Potato Salad in the right front corner pocket.
Getting to the star of this bento show, we have the Ham & Tofu Katsu, which you’re probably wondering how in the heck that’s made. Well before we get into that, let me just say that Otafuku Tonkatsu Sauce they provide for it is EXCELLENT! I’m going to have to hunt down a bottle of that stuff! It definitely gives my favorites’ Bull Dog, Bairin Tokusen and Ikari a run for the money!
Getting to how it’s made, it’s essentially a thin slice of ham that’s wrapped around a block of firm Aloha Tofu sliced about a 1/2″ thick, then coated in Panko and deep-fried until delicately “GBD”. GENIUS!
The slightly salty porky flavor of the ham sort of permeates itself into the firm tofu, yet it’s still light enough where you feel good when you eat it, with no heavy guilt whatsoever. The Ham & Tofu Katsu really is Aloha Tofu’s “sleeper” hit! They should try do one with curry on it!
They don’t call it “Curry Saba”, however there’s certainly just enough curry powder on it that I’ll call it that. I mean it’s very, very mild, but you can taste it on the fatty saba fish, meaning in a very good way. It’s definitely oishii!
And the sauteed Saba fillet is definitely flavorful, moist and tender, not overcooked at all. Just watch out for the tiny pin bones. The combination of that with the ham & tofu katsu is the perfect Japanese-fusion take on “surf ‘n turf”. Winnahz!
Then there’s that incredible Potato Salad that I don’t know what the heck they put in it, being it Wasabi, Dashi, or Crack? But whatever it is, it’s so, so ono! And the delicate texture is AMAZING. I could seriously whack a whole bowl of just this potato salad alone, it’s that good, IMO.
Even this simple Broccoli Salad tossed in some mysterious creamy dressing was freakin’ awesome.
A good bento should always include Tsukemono (pickled side dishes), and they’ve got that covered with this simple, yet tasty pickled Daikon.
And rounding it off, the main side dish, the Hijiki (sea vegetable) & Aburage (fried tofu) Nimono (simmered dish), which was also STELLAR.
This whole Aloha Friday Bento was STELLAR. 5 Aloha Tofu Musubi!
On Tuesday, Diner E tried their Aloha Tofu Loco Moco mini plate for just $5.50. It’s described as a hamburger patty mixed with Firm Aloha Tofu, with a special Demi-Glace Sauce.
You can tell by the light color that the ratio of firm tofu to ground beef is quite high, yet Diner E says it still tastes beefy.
While he didn’t ask, he’s pretty sure the egg is Kalei brand, farm raised right here on Oahu, as he could taste its freshness. He said the Demi-Glace “sauce” was winnahz, overall giving the Loco Moco 3 SPAM Musubi.
Moving along to Aloha Friday, Diner E sampled their Aloha Tofu Burger 1-choice small bento for $7.00.
A huge helping of Aloha Tofu Slaw. Slaw with a Tofu Hamburger? Genius!
Da’ tsukemono on this day was Namasu. Nice!
While the Nimono on this day included eggplant and string beans (underneath all that).
Above in the Tofu Burger “money shot”, you can again see how light the color of the burger is inside, evident that there’s high crumbled tofu-to-ground beef ratio. With that, once again Diner E said it still tasted really beefy, yet light and satisfying. He also noted the brown gravy was super oishii. Really deep, somewhat complex, and definitely not packaged stuff. Gotta’ love the sauteed onions in the mix as well!
Rounding it up, Diner “Saimin Kaukau” E gives the Aloha Tofu Beef Bowl Bento a record-breaking (for him, anyway) 4 SPAM Musubi! Wow!
Here’s Aloha Tofu Town’s Thursday special, the Spicy Aloha Tofu Shrimp…
Aloha Tofu Town Spicy Aloha Tofu Shrimp. $8
This past Thursday Yours Truly dropped by to sample their Aloha Tofu Poke. What you may not notice in that photo besides, well, EXCELLENT PACKAGING, is, excellent packaging! That handy-dandy to-go Aloha Tofu Poke Bowl comes complete with a cute little fold-away spoon, a packet of Dashi Shoyu imported from Hiroshima, Japan, and the bowl itself is heat sealed with plastic wrap. So awesome! I tell you them Japanese, they really know how to present food the proper way!
I said that packet of dashi shoyu is from Hiroshima, and I stress DASHI shoyu, as it tastes more like a concentrated Tempura sauce. So oishii, I could drink the packet by itself! lol
After emptying the entire packet of dashi shoyu (you must!) over the tofu poke and tossing it lightly, I have at it. And? Dude, I kid you not, and you know how much I love my Ahi Poke. But seriously, if I were at a party, and some shmuck went and hogged all the ahi poke on the spread with none left, yet there was a whole bowl of this Aloha Tofu Poke still there. I would not miss the Ahi Poke one single bit. This Tofu Poke ROCKS!
The Yakidofu is fried, so it has that extra dimension of flavor and texture. Then the cubed Yakidofu is tossed with ogo, sesame seed, green onion, ginger, sesame oil and red chili pepper, plus strips of Kamaboko (fish cake). But I tell you, that Hiroshima Dashi Shoyu is the shindizzle on the yakihizzle, yo! That’s really what knocks this Aloha Tofu Poke out the park! Yet another 5 Aloha Tofu Musubi!
Speaking of Musubi, along with the Aloha Tofu Poke, I also sampled their Mame Gohan no Omusubi, a.k.a. Sesame Rice with Soybeans Musubi.
As you see on the label, the ingredients are Rice, Mochi Rice, Seaweed, Sesame Seeds, Soybeans, Sesame Seed Oil, Soy Sauce, Sake, Mirin, Dashi no Moto and Salt and it weighs 5.5 oz. And it costs just $2 each. Nani wa kore? Ni doru dake? Yasui desu yo!
Hopefully you also noticed that, like the Aloha Tofu Poke, this Omusubi was also wrapped in heat-sealed plastic to keep the glutenous Mochi rice as fresh as possible.
Gosh, in my eyes, that looks absolutely HEAVENLY!
And? Dude, again, freakin’ WINNAHZ! Move ovah Manabu’s. Move ovah Shirokiya. Move ovah Marukai. Move ovah Iyasume. We got a new Omusubi playah in town! Playah! *Spoken like Les Grossman*
While the soybeans may look like natto, not to fear, as they don’t have all the slime that natto has, nor do they taste as fermented, but more stewed and “nutty” if you will. But the dashi and sake used to make that fantastic mochi rice is what I think hits this out the park. Really, the entire sum of its complex parts is what does it. Just get this. Trust me, after eating this, you’ll give up on SPAM Musubi. Aloha Tofu’s Hame Gohan no Omusubi for the win! Once again, 5 Aloha Tofu Musubi… literally!
Moving along to something sweet and unique, we have the new Aloha Tofu Okara Cream Puff. What was that? Yes, that’s right, Okara Cream Puffs, and you heard about it here first, right in Honolulu from Aloha Tofu Town!
Only available Monday and Thursday, as those are the only days the baker from from Japan is available to make them. Yes, they’re that exclusive!
According to the wrapper label, the ingredients for Aloha Tofu Okara Cream Puffs are: Butter, Soymilk, Flour, Eggs, Okara, Cornstarch, Vanilla Essence and Sugar.
In case you don’t know what Okara is, it’s the soy pulp, or solid matter that’s left over in the Tofu-making process, similar to what curd is from whey in the cheese-making process.
And Aloha Tofu generates BARRELS of Okara every day when they make their Tofu. So much so, that they end of giving most of it away to local pig farmers. Reason being, Okara has a very short shelf life, even when refrigerated, and must be either frozen or discarded. So it’s totally genius (again) that they decided to turn a byproduct into something genuinely delicious in the form of these Okara Cream Puffs!
Looking above at my money shot, you see the silky vanilla custard filling is also mixed with a lightly whipped cream around the edges. Brilliant! The okara is ground-up finely and mixed with the flour to make the delicate Choux pastry crust.
And? Again, EXCELLENT. It tastes like a perfectly executed Cream Puff, a.k.a. Choux Creme. It definitely gives Beard Papa a run for the money. Naturally you can’t taste the Okara in it, as well, Okara doesn’t really have any taste. Okara just takes on whatever you flavor it with, and in that regard, it’s a perfect product for baking.
Summing it up, once again 5 Aloha Tofu Musubi for Aloha Tofu’s Okara Cream Puffs.
I visited the Aloha Tofu factory several years ago and got to see the entire process of making tofu, which is VERY fascinating. The factory is open to the public and I highly suggest you visit there some time. Great experience! You can also get Aloha Tofu products there slightly cheaper than in the store, plus they also sell soy milk that’s SUPER FRESH. And if you ask, they’ll even give you fresh Okara for FREE! Ask for Noreen, and tell her Pomai sent you. For real!
At the time of my visit to the factory in 2012, they had just introduced their Aloha Tofu Mousse, and shared with me a bunch of flavor samples, including what you see above with their Strawberry Aloha Tofu Mousse, using only fresh strawberries, of course.
To note, the chef who makes their Aloha Tofu Mousse used to be the pasty chef at the Hotel Okura in Japan. And she was also one of the exclusive pastry chefs for the emperor of Japan, so there’s seriously awesome lineage in these mousse! And you can try them now at Aloha Tofu Town!
Above was Aloha Tofu Town’s introductory menu for the first week they were open, however they do revise their menu every week to show what their new Aloha Friday special is.
The Aloha Friday special for next week Friday, January 23rd, will be Sukiyaki Beef and Okara Croquette with Hijiki & Aburage Nimono. $10. You can preorder yours by faxing or calling in using this menu form (PDF download).
The new Aloha Tofu Town at Dole Cannery is located street level on the same side as Regal Theaters, below the parking structure, right in front, a few doors over from Tachibana Enterprises.
While the shop may look unassuming from the outside, as well as within, once you taste whatever it is they offer at Aloha Tofu Town, I’m pretty sure you’ll have a big Aloha Tofu smile. Highly recommended!
Aloha Tofu Town
735 Iwilei Road
The Tasty Island Rating:
(5) Superb. Worthy of repeat visits or purchases. (Broke Da’ Mout’!)