The best tofu in San Jose is made at San Jose Tofu on Jackson St. Every day, except Sunday, the Tofu man, Chester Nozaki, makes a batch of fresh tofu. If you want to buy some on Saturday go early, because they sell out around noon. There is nothing like the flavor and texture of super fresh tofu.
During the weekdays they do not always sell out. They take any remaining blocks of tofu and press them into pressed tofu—squeezing a 6 x 4 x 4 inch block of fresh tofu into a flat piece that is ½ x 4 x 4 inches. I use these to make Jan’s favorite dish, mapo doufu.
The “public area” of San Jose Tofu is minuscule—if there are more than five customers at the same time, not an unusual occurrence on a Saturday, other customers must wait outside. Over the counter you can see into the work area, where there are the large pots where the tofu is boiled. Usually a woman handles the cash register, while the tofu man is working around the vats.
I stopped by on a weekday, so it was the Tofu man himself who served me. When I was at the next store, I remembered that I was out of miso dressing. That store was sold out, so I went back to SJ Tofu. Other things that you can buy there, besides fresh tofu, is a limited number of Japanese items with long shelf-lives—hon dashi, ginger, dried shitake mushrooms, kamaboko, etc.
When he saw what I had come back for, the Tofu man started talking about when he was a child—when his father was the Tofu Man—he would use the dressing, that I was buying, on tofu fresh from the tub as a snack. He would cube the tofu and then dip it in the dressing. He said that you had to do it this way, because the fresh tofu sheds so much liquid that it dilutes the dressing if you pour it over the cubes.
I thought I could solve this problem by pressing much of the liquid out of the tofu block. I placed the tofu on a plate and put a second plate and a weight on top. This squeezed about half a cup of liquid in an hour. I then cubed the tofu and added the miso dressing and some seaweed salad—I should have listened to the expert.
While the blocks on top of the salad were nice, by the time I got down to the bottom of the bowl even the pressed tofu had shed enough liquid to wash out the remaining dressing. Both Jan and Eilene also complained about my having poured too much dressing over the salads as well. Next time I will do it as the Tofu man suggested, serving the dressing in a small bowl on the side for dipping.
The Tofu Man’s Salad
1 block fresh tofu
¾ cup seaweed salad
1 Tbs. miso dressing per person
1. Cut the tofu block into ¾ inch cubes.
Tip: Made this way you do not need to press the tofu.
2. Place the cubes into individual bowls and place the seaweed around them.
3. Serve the dressing in a separate small cup for dipping.