A taste for tofu

WITH the market for plant-based food growing year-on-year, there are innovative food makers creating gourmet produce from some traditional, if not usual sources.

James Phelps and Loz ‘The Cheese Mistress’ Abberton operate Soyoyoy from a waterside commercial kitchen in Kettering, their base of operations for experimenting and creating a fascinating product. From Australian-grown organic soybeans they make tofu, plant-based ‘cheeses’ in Brie and Feta form, soy milk and tempeh, an Indonesian fermented food packed with protein.

Both originally from Queensland, James had spent his career to date in acoustics and soundproofing while Loz had a successful career as an interior designer. The pair’s start in the tofu-making world began after they supplied a friend’s cafe with homemade tofu, something they had dabbled in for years.

“There were local restaurant owners coming in and asking about the tofu on their plate and where to get it,” James said. “That’s where it started for us, and now we’re spending days making jars for supermarkets, local stores and supplying restaurants.”

Apart from the garnishes, spices and additional flavours in their product, almost all of their food is produced with the soybeans they buy in the pallet load. “It’s a little unfortunate the climate just doesn’t suit growing soybeans in Tasmania as we’re buying a lot of them from the mainland.” It’s a good thing the soybeans are expansive, with 1.4kgs in soybeans typically producing 3kgs of tofu product. Though the end products are all vastly different, the process of making the Soyoyoy range is all rather interconnected. “You always have to start with a really high protein soybean, those are usually organic if you can get them,” James said.

“Soaking the beans overnight and grinding them with the water and boiling makes our soy milk. “From there we can add in a coagulant, in our case edible gypsum, which sets into a curd and whey.” “That’s moved into a cloth form and put under weight to push that whey out, just as you would with cheeses. “That’s how we can make those adjustments from a soft to a medium or firm tofu.” This can be where the tofu is packaged and sold. Alternatively, the ‘cheese making’ process comes in to play. “Our cheeses are made along the same process with a lot of other ingredients being put in” “Our Feta is also made in moulds to fit nicely in the jars.”

Product volume has increased dramatically for the team after their tofu-making machine arrived last year from Taiwan to help meet their demand. “We’ve had talks with larger supermarkets to stock our product but we simply can’t supply their demand. “The machine has taken the load off hand-making 300 jars a day but unfortunately that’s pushed it down the line. “It’s making more tofu than we could by hand – now we’re jarring twice the amount again.”

James and Loz can be found at Harvest Market in Launceston and the Farm Gate Market in Hobart, while their products are steadily hitting shelves in health food stores and supermarkets around the state.