Generations of Local Tofu-Making
Aloha Tofu is the largest O‘ahu based tofu company, but it didn’t start out that way. The family business was founded in 1950 by Kamesaburo and Tsuruko Uyehara and is now run by its fourth-generation owner, Paul Uyehara and his wife. Uyehara’s grandparents first purchased the small tofu factory from a friend 72 years ago. With only a week to learn, they set out to create their livelihood, one block of tofu at a time.
Over the years, they have overcome many obstacles. Despite their factory burning down and challenges caused by the pandemic, their simple and wholesome mission has not changed. “Our mission is to make tofu and to supply the community with a food product,” said Uyehara. “For many, it’s a staple food item.”
Being a staple means that their production must match a large demand. Aloha Tofu processes one ton of soybeans to make 3,000 to 5,000 blocks of tofu and about 2,500 blocks of deep-fried tofu daily.
Products include firm and soft tofu, as well as natto, soymilk, and deep-fried tofu also known as aburage and atsuage, at many local supermarkets. All of their products can be found on their website at www.aloha-tofu.com. The website also provides nutritional facts and the history of the business, as well as an extensive list of healthy and traditional tofu recipes.
Tofu is very nutritious with the firm tofu containing 36 grams and the soft tofu containing 24 grams of protein respectively. Tofu is also said to contain several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant phyto-chemicals. It is also a good source of fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, copper and manganese.
Despite all the benefits, there are few local tofu producers. “When I came back in 1996, there were about nine factories operating on O‘ahu,” said Uyehara. “But now there’s only two.” Dedication and hard work are key to operating a business like tofu production. He starts his day at 4 a.m. and is at the factory six days a week. It is a difficult line of work, but Uyehara loves it. He hopes that tofu will continue to be locally produced.
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