I can’t say that the idea of soy-free tofu was particularly exciting to me (mostly because I know exactly one thing about tofu—that it’s made from soy). If not soy, then what? Is tofu really good enough that soy-sensitive folks are seeking a chunky white alternative?
The answer is yes (and in hindsight, I probably sound a lot like early naysayers of dairy-free ice cream or plant-based burgers—embrace innovation, godammit). Vancouver-based Big Mountain Foods’ new smoked soy-free tofu is that alternative. The ingredients are water, fava beans, salt, calcium sulphate and smoke. When the company launched the product, they offered me some to try. So no, I didn’t pay for it, and honestly you wouldn’t really find me shopping in the soy-free plant-based protein section, anyway.
Big Mountain Foods’ Lion’s Mane mushroom crumble earned them a spot on the finalist list in our Made in Vancouver Awards. The local business is all about plant-based food—their other goods include veggie sausages and patties. That’s standard vegan fare, but smoked tofu is far from mainstream.
It’s tough to package tofu in a way that looks appealing, and this version is all the more... let’s say, unique-looking thanks to a dark brown, rind-like exterior created by the smoke. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
Surprise number two: it smells delicious. Sorry to rag on tofu again, but the traditional kind isn’t known for its scent (no realtors are staging homes with that “freshly baked tofu” smell to intrigue buyers). But the smokey aroma coming off this tofu is similar to smoked cheese or fish—it’s rich and dark and layered in a way that’s unexpected, and good.
The tofu is extra firm, and a quick slice reveals the inside (which just looks like regular tofu, shocker). I air-fried mine and put it on a salad with kale, potatoes, pickled onions and feta cheese.
The tofu crisped up really nicely, and the heat only enriched that smokey flavour. It's so much more palate-friendly than regular tofu, and it has all the complexity you’re looking for in a protein (I think that’s generally a downfall of meat alternatives). I wasn’t eating the salad thinking about how much better it would be with chicken in it. This is likely due to the smoke, but to me, the tofu acted and tasted a lot more like cheese than tofu (and yeah, I like cheese a lot more than I like tofu).
I said earlier that you wouldn’t find me shopping in the soy-free plant-based protein section, but that’s about to change. Is this smoked, soy-free tofu better than regular tofu? Absolutely, unquestionably yes. Is it better than traditional protein-rich foods (aka meat)? Honestly, it’s close. Take it from a skeptic—this is super tasty. Soy good! (Soy sorry.)