Hammond had an all-tofu Fourth of July barbecue. He tried haute tofu at Perennial (at right, chef Ryan Poli) and May Street Market. He checked out what tofu makers Phoenix Bean and Tiny Greens are up to. He even roped his family into it -- his wife, Carolyn, tinkered with tofu on the barbie, while his daughter, Josanna, developed a tofu cookie. The cookie at first was too cakey, Hammond told me a quarter of the way into his reporting. The final version is crisper and features a tiny cube of tofu in the center of each cookie -- and chocolate chips. (Read more about Hammond's tofu exploits on this LTHForum thread.)
Did I mention the new dawn of tofu? At Perennial, the tofu outsold the beef on a recent weekday night, Perennial chef Ryan Poli tells me. "What's up with that?" he asked, bemused, amused and pleased.
Meanwhile, Sun-Times photographer Jean Lachat, who shot the photos of Phoenix Bean tofu and owner Jenny Yang, came back to the office all giddy about one Phoenix product in particular -- fried tofu puffs.
Yang calls them "Chinese Twinkies," though they're savory, not sweet, slightly crisp and chewy on the outside, delightfully airy and creamy on the inside.
Traditionally, these ersatz Twinkies are stuffed with shrimp or vegetable paste, then baked and drizzled with gravy, Yang says. In the Japanese kitchen, they're stuffed with sticky rice or cubed and added to miso soup.
Find them at Asian markets. At Phoenix Bean, 5438 N. Broadway a 10-pack is $1.35.