Chow Fun: Curd Appeal

More than just a flavor vehicle, tofu stands all on its own

Photograph by Edmund Barr

Tofu has baggage. For the longest time it has been hippie food at its most pious, a vegetable-derived protein that couldn’t pack the joy of the dorm kefir jar. Tofu was conscience on a plate. That culinary drabness, though, was based on the blocks of tofu sold in sealed tubs at health food stores. In Los Angeles today it is possible to become, if not exactly reacquainted (that would imply a previous fascination) then educated about an ingredient whose texture is silky yet substantial, whose austere flavor is never a mere backdrop but magnifies everything with which it is paired. The city’s restaurants signal the variety of approaches that tofu can pull off. At BCD Tofu House in Koreatown, diners crack eggs into sputtering hot pots in which tofu has been submerged in a spicy, seaweed-flecked broth.

At Asanebo, a sushi powerhouse in Studio City, a cube of fresh sesame tofu is seared and served warm with a dusting of shaved bonito, a spoon of grated daikon giving the whole a pert kick. A bit east, in a covelike bend on Ventura Boulevard, Yuta offers a homemade organic tofu served cold (above), its crown of salmon eggs lending a briny elegance, its ribbon of soy-spiked wasabi giving it zing. » Asanebo: 11941 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-760-3348. BCD Tofu House: 3573 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown, 213-382-6677. Yuta: 11266 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, 818-985-9882.