Third annual Northern Calif. Soy and Tofu Fest a hit


Emcees George Kiriyama and Jana Katsuyama with the mascots. photo by William Lee

The Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival held its third annual event June 1 in San Francisco’s Japantown, focusing on educating attendees about the versatility of soy and tofu products.

While promoting a healthy lifestyle by featuring food vendors like Hodo Soy Beanery, Rau Om and cruncha ma-me, the event also highlighted the use of soy in non-food items like candles, which emit non-toxic fumes while burning, and the warm melted wax can be used as a skin lotion or massage oil, said Katey’s Kandles owner Kate Song.

First time attendee Isaiah Lopez, who recently moved to the Bay Area from Los Angeles, said he liked seeing how health conscious some San Francisco communities can be.

“I think expanding awareness of tofu and the whole healthy eating thing is really good for me and I think for everyone else (too),” he said gesturing toward his friends, who learned about the event through

In addition to showing alternative uses of soy products, such as soy candle maker RM Creations, Ellovi promoted the use of natural ingredients in skincare products. Its first product, Butter, is an intense body-hydrating moisturizer that is made only from the oils of six different natural ingredients and contains no water or preservatives.

“What you put on your skin actually is absorbed into your bloodstream so we believe that everything you put on your skin externally should be safe and pure enough to eat,” said Kelly Winterhalter, Ellovi’s founder and CEO.

The festival also featured goods by Sumofish (T-shirts), Thomas Arakawa (pottery) and Modern M — an online boutique that sells greeting cards, scarves and necklaces — as well as numerous nonprofit vendors.

Google chef Michael Chateauvieux won this year’s Soy and Tofu Dessert Competition for his Soy Panna Cotta with Strawberry Puree, Cat Eye Cookie & Shiso Drizzle, described by judges as a creamy dessert that combined a variety of textures in a beautiful presentation.

“Sometimes soy bean can be ‘beany,’ but this dessert doesn’t taste (like) that,” said judge Sonoko Sakai, a cooking teacher and writer. “It’s very creamy, smooth and not too sweet and I like that shiso touch — that minty touch — it’s really nice.”

Chateauvieux said he cooks tofu often, but this was the first time he used it in a dessert. “It’s hard to take in. You hope you’re the winner and it happens and I’m glad the hard work paid off.”

Fellow tofu dessert contestant Kristi Matsumoto, an office manager, won second place for her Soymilk Pudding with Kinako Cake. Foreign government worker Justin Howard won audience favorite and third place for his Geki-Uma Tofu-Dream.

Competition judges included Vincent Pan, executive director at Chinese for Affirmative Action; Riko Majillo, chef de cuisine at Google; Minh Tsai, Hodo Soy Beanery’s founder; Sonoko Sakai, cooking teacher and writer, Common Grains; and Christy Hwang, yakiniQ Café owner.

Kikkoman drew the largest crowd among the food vendors with its free Pearl soymilk and ponzu and soy sauce-over-tofu samples, attracting a constant flow of people throughout the festival. Other vendors included Nakayoshi Café, in which members of the Nakayoshi Young
Professionals group sold NakaTofu Sushi Rolls and Mabo Dofu. All proceeds from Nakayoshi Café’s sales went to the Nichi Bei Foundation.

Food trucks JapaCurry and The Chairman Truck also served up a variety of dishes, and San Jose Tofu and Sacramento Tofu Company provided tofu.

In addition to giving out samples of cruncha ma-me and Eda-zen (which is frozen shelled edamame), the cruncha ma-me booth gave away the first 200 bags of its salt-and-pepper flavored cruncha ma-me.

A variety of local Bay Area artists provided the entertainment for this year’s festival, each with a different style to showcase. Bay Area Japanese taiko ensemble Jiten Daiko brought the booming traditional music of Japan to the Peace Plaza, while the Hula Halau Ke ‘Olu Makani ‘O Mauna Loa brought Hawai‘i to the stage with its Hawaiian singing, ‘ukulele playing and hula dance. Sacramento, Calif. native and McClatchy High School graduate Kendyl Ito returned to the stage for the second time at the festival. She performed three songs and announced she will be attending Pace University’s Music Theater Program in New York this fall.

Emcees George Kiriyama and Jana Katsuyama with the mascots. photo by William Lee
Emcees George Kiriyama and Jana Katsuyama with the mascots. photo by William Lee

Curt Yagi & the People Standing Behind Me; the Francis Wong Ensemble featuring Wong on saxophone, Wesley Ueunten on Okinawan sanshin, Melody Takata on taiko and rapper A.K. Black; GenRyu Arts – Gen Ensemble; and dancer Kan Morimoto Lew alias “Morimoto” also performed. Jana Katsuyama, a reporter for KTVU Channel 2 News, and George Kiriyama, a reporter for NBC Bay Area, emceed the entire event.

While advocating its national cause, the Asian American Donor Program sought to recruit more bone marrow donor registrants, and inform others about the ease and importance of marrow donation. Chinese for Affirmative Action Executive Director Vincent Pan spoke about the process from a donor’s perspective, and leukemia survivor Ryan Manansala shared his experience before and after receiving a marrow transplant.

AADP Outreach Coordinator Thi Ly noted the community support they received during the event.

“I think this is a great place to really bring in more people because we’re hoping to register more donors for people of Asian American descent and more minorities, and this is perfect because this is the center of the Japanese American community,” she said.

AADP recruited more than 30 people to register to become donors.

This year, the festival expanded to the Buchanan Mall, and introduced Tiny Tofu Town, which featured a variety of games for kids and adults, crafts and an inflatable jumpy.
A host of prizes were awarded in the raffle as well as “Tofun” audience participation games.

“This year’s festival was a huge success,” said Kenji G. Taguma, who with Kiyomi Tanaka serves as co-chair of the event. “Not only are we rapidly growing — from 3,500 attendees in our first year, to 7,000 last year, and double that or more this year — but we’re also expanding our organizing team and building community in the process. In fact, community-building and leadership development have become an important outcome of this festival.

“Were extremely grateful to our sponsors, product donors, vendors, entertainers and volunteers, who help to make this an extremely fun and rewarding festival,” added Taguma, who is also the president of the Nichi Bei Foundation and the editor-in-chief of the Nichi Bei Weekly.
Event sponsors included The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, PG&E, Kikkoman, California Bank and Trust, Union Bank and Soy Joy, while media sponsors included NBC Bay Area, KTSF 26, Myx TV, Philippine News, The Korea Times San Francisco, J Weekly and the Nichi Bei Weekly.

For more information about the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, visit http://soyandtofufest.orgg or call (415) 673-1009.

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