FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Soy to the World in Manoa Marketplace offers organic soy products. Above, soy beans in their raw state.
The joy of soy
Take-out eateries preparing healthy alternatives to local favorites are getting popular, and not just with vegans
MUSUBI without Spam? Sushi without rice? Plate lunch with a macaroni salad that's actually low fat? Ice cream that's good for you?
What's the world coming to?
» Place: Waipio Gentry Shopping Center (near Foodland)
» Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays
» Call: 678-2900
» On the Web: www.xoticeats.com
Soy to the World
» Place: Manoa Marketplace (next to First Hawaiian Bank)
» Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays.
» Call: 988-8555
» On the Web: www.soy2theworld.net (under construction)
Soy to the World offers mango/peanut butter smoothies ($4.50), okara cookies (eight for $3) and non-dairy soy ice cream (1/2 pint for $1.50 to $2).
Two new takeout restaurants (outdoor seating only) serving healthy alternatives to local staples are gaining popularity, and not just with the dedicated vegan crowd.
Xotic Eats opened Feb. 27 in the Waipio Shopping Center to offer a refreshing combination of local must-haves, low-fat fare, and some dishes specialized enough for people, such as body builders, who follow strict diets.
"Frankly, local food rocks, but I think (owner Christie Wilson) has done a great job of taking those favorites and making them healthier," said Lea Newman, an Air Force lieutenant who is training for the Miss Fitness USA competition.
"I love the Tofushi. I can't have white rice, so for those of us on a low-carb diet, tofushi is the answer to our prayers."
Wilson, who said she invented Tofushi, processes tofu in a way that gives it a texture similar to rice, then stuffs it with lean grilled chicken or vegetables, adding protein and nutrients while removing empty calories. Even better, tofushi isn't "mushy," said Wilson, and won't harden or dry out in the refrigerator overnight.
Newman's menu preferences include tofu-inspired California rolls and a miso-ginger stir-fry. At Newman's request, Wilson created a special stir-fry sauce using ginger and Splenda to help Newman stay in line with her pre-competition diet.
"It's super low fat and super low carb, and yet it tastes phenomenal," said Newman.
Healthier substitutions -- such as brown rice for white rice -- are always welcome. But this was not enough to grow Wilson's new business. So she expanded the restaurant's selection. "Since I started frying things, my business has picked up," she admitted.
This seems to work for everyone.
"What I like about her place is that on my ultra-strict diet, I can eat, but I can also bring my friends, and nobody is inconvenienced," said Newman. "There is literally something for everyone. Most places don't understand my diet, and her place does. She understands that people have different needs."
The store's name is pronounced "exotic," but Wilson "wanted it to be different -- something people won't forget." So she dropped the E from the first word.
Many of Wilson's customers don't know that Xotic Eats has a catering menu, which includes fruit kebabs, fresh fruit salsa and baked cinnamon sugar tortilla chips, and her almost-famous Tofushi ($32.50 for a 54-piece platter).
In addition to offering "smarter" alternatives, Wilson's Web site says she's committed to cooking "tasty food, so you don't feel deprived." Abundant flavor, crispy-yet-tender vegetables and lean cuts of meat at reasonable prices ($5.95 per bowl) are making the restaurant's stir-fry selections a key attraction.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Soy to the World owner Munehiro Yamada, right, and Jeremy Kotsubo hold a large pan of soy beans, the raw material used for most of the goods in the shop.
Some food is prepared ahead of time, okazu-style, for a quick lunch or dinner. Other items, such as the famous North Shore Cattle hamburgers or the delectable portobello mushroom burger -- marinated and topped with sun-dried tomato aioli and grilled to perfection -- are cooked when ordered. Wilson also serves a variety of hearty salads and 10 different types of bentos. Furthermore, she is willing to work with customers one-on-one to improve their diets or create custom dishes for them.
Soy to the World opened May 12 at Manoa Marketplace, importing organic soybeans from Michigan and Japan, according to Munehiro Yamada, one of three owners. They make the soymilk and tofu every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the back of the store to ensure that all the products in their refrigerated cases are fresh.
Frequently requested items include smoothies minimally sweetened with organic sugar, and non-dairy soy ice cream in flavors such as Oreo vanilla, green tea, shoyu, black cherry, organic peanut butter and miso.
"We're adding to our lunch inventory all the time," said Leanne Hubrecht, who calls herself the "resident vegan" and helps create some of the shop's specialized recipes. At $4.50 for 16 ounces, the smoothies out-price Jamba Juice. But as Hubrecht whipped up a mango/peanut butter concoction in a blender, it did not appear that this unique, specialty operation was striving for mass production.
Soy to the World's plate lunch special includes okara meat loaf or potato loaf, and a vegan soy macaroni salad for $6.50. Okara is the high fiber remnant, or husk, left over after soybeans are processed. It's full of protein, calcium, iron and riboflavin. Packaged okara is also available, and those looking for an unusual dessert might try the okara cookies lining the shelves (eight for $3).
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Xotic Eats manager Rachel Poepoe holds a mini tray of maki tofushi. Also pictured is the Asian Chicken Spinach Salad, left, and a Tofu Salmon Salad.
Organic rice and organic sesame comprise the musubi. Twelve-ounce servings of soft tofu are available for $2.50, but Hubrecht said the zara tofu ($5) is "the best product we sell." Most tofu is soaked in purified water, but the zara is not. Consequently, it's served in a small basket inside a plastic container, which allows the oil to drain out. Some people then use the oil for cooking. The tofu, whipped to resemble the consistency of soft-serve ice cream, "is so flavorful, so rich," she said.
The purity of the creamy soy (1/2 pint for $1.50) and extra creamy soy (1/2 pint for $2) might come as a shock to those accustomed to the sweetened varieties lining supermarket shelves.
New customers Liza Baker and her husband, Kona, said they generally "try to explore new, healthy things," so they stopped in to try the soy milk.
"It's very different," Liza said. "I think it's an acquired taste; it doesn't have all the sweeteners in it." The consistency is also much thicker.
"Natural soy milk from natural soybeans -- big difference," said Yamada, who described himself as an organic farmer so devoted to his craft that he makes a habit of inspecting the soybean farms. "I check the soil and everything."
Approximately 40 percent of Yamada's clientele follow a vegan regimen, but he's hoping to attract more middle-of-the-road consumers who want to eat a little bit of soy-related food or beverage every day for good health. He has many ideas for new soy-related foods that he'd like to introduce.
In the meantime, he's looking at land in Waimanalo and Maunawili, where he is testing soybeans to possibly start his own farm.
"Soybeans," he said, "is my first purpose."