Cutting Carbs With Tofushi
Friday - September 01, 2006
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Christie T. Akamine is owner of Xotic Eats
Christie T. Akamine has a secret. It’s one that she hopes might hold the key to culinary success - and to changing the look of one of Hawaii’s favorite dishes. Her rice-less sushi, Tofushi, is made with tofu instead of our island’s favorite starch, and she thinks her recipe is a winner.
Akamine has always been interested in eating healthful food, but like most of us she has a weakness for starch-filled snacks.
“I was looking for a way to cut down on carbs at night,” she says, “but I found that I was still hungry when I had eaten something without rice. I wanted to create a snack that I could eat without feeling guilty, so I started to think about using tofu instead of rice.”
Akamine began experimenting with tofu in various forms.
“I knew it needed to have some texture, and be able to replace rice in a California roll,” she says, “so I made dozens of trial attempts and tried them out on family members and friends.”
Today, when she hands out hundreds of samples at the KCC farmer’s market on Saturday mornings, many people can’t tell the difference. “If I give someone one of our spicy crab rolls, for example,” she says, “many times people will comment that they wouldn’t have known there’s no rice in there.”
Tofu has always had a reputation for taking on the flavors of whatever a dish requires, but as a rice replacement?
I tried some of her Tofushi last week when I drove over to the Gentry Waipio Shopping Center to visit her store, Xotic Eats.
Next to bento boxes and other takeout snacks, the Tofushi sit, looking remarkably like regular California rolls. She’s managed to get the tofu to take on a rough enough texture that it has a mouth-feel that resembles rice, albeit a little softer. But there’s no extra moisture or any of the silkiness associated with pure tofu. And another bonus is that the tofu doesn’t harden in the refrigerator or overnight, like regular sushi does.
Tofu is a complete protein containing eight essential amino acids and is a good source of calcium, vitamin B and iron. It’s naturally low in saturated fat and has no cholesterol, making it a true health food.
“The process I use takes out the moisture and it leaves a texturized tofu that does resemble rice. I think it’s more flavorful, it’s lighter and more refreshing,” she says. Tofushi comes with all the regular, recognized fillings, (spicy ahi, shrimp, unagi, ahi and shrimp tempura) and Akamine has added a few original ones too. There’s an asparagus roll, a portobello mushroom roll, salmon and cream cheese, and even Spam and egg.
As a fitness fanatic and owner of an okazu takeout business, Akamine finds herself in a unique situation. She originally wanted to serve only healthful foods at her store, but soon learned that local customers’ demands for garlic chicken, chicken katsu and other deep-fried delights by far outnumbered requests for healthier dishes.
“After a few months I realized I’d have to start up the deep-fryer that had never been turned on at that point,” she says, laughing.
So far, comments are mostly positive about the rice-less sushi, and Akamine hopes that soon it will be available to a broader market. She’s trademarked the Tofushi name and hopes to see it on sale in major food stores around the islands.
Xotic Eats Gentry Waipio Shopping Center
Open 7a.m. -7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays.
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