Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bui Natural Tofu

Bui Natural Tofu
520 NE 76th Ave
Portland, OR 97213

While I couldn't dig up any extra time to cook today, I can always find time for Vietnamese food.  Two of my favorite shops are across the street from each other in NE Portland, The Knitt'n Kitten and Bui Natural Tofu.  In case you haven't heard, Knitt'n Kitten is a thrift/resale shop for crafts, trim, yarn, knitting/crochet supplies and fabric of all kinds, and is obviously all kinds of amazing.  Just a skip away, is Bui's.  I just hate it, on days when I have to visit this part of town.  Poor me, salad rolls and vintage calico at the same time, it just can't get much worse.

I've been extra-dying for Vietnamese lately, so when I scored a bunch of reduced limes for sale at the co-op yesterday, I knew some pho or bun chay would soon be within reach.  I procured the rest of the needed ingredients today, which involved The Dreaded Errands:  Vee and I scored some cool vintage double knit polyester, plus a skadoodle of Vietnamese treats. 

Today's haul!  Look at this beautiful stuff.
The salad rolls at Bui's are a mainstay at our house.  For $2.75 you get two big rolls plus a hoisin/peanut sauce, of questionable xgfxness*.

The rolls are my favorite in town, which is weird because they're super plain--no basil, mint or cilantro, and I am no Plain Jane.  Rice papers are simply wrapped around rice noodles, green leafy lettuce and thinly sliced tofu.

See what I mean?  The noodles 'n' stuffed are pressed right into the tofu!
The tofu is the secret ingredient, that makes the rolls so tasty and addictive.  It's made in house, so you know it's fresh, and it's full of vermicelli noodles, green onions and shallots.  IN.  THE. TOFU.  If you go to Bui's looking for this stuff, they call it "green onion" tofu and sell it fried and plain out of the fridge.  It's super cheap, so I bought a couple of blocks to show you its inner glory--you can't beat .69 a block for fresh homemade tofu.

I also picked up a container of Lemongrass Tofu.  I don't buy this as often, since it's deep-fried, but it's another one of Bui's shining soy stars. 

More plusses about Bui:  they have containers of Bi Chay and Bi Thai Chay in the fridge.  They're dry tofu based condiments made with noodles, veggies and spices, and they are awesome.  You don't need to do anything special with 'em, just throw them on some brown rice, and you've got a delicious meal.

My only complaint about Bui:   They use a lot of styrofoam, but if you bring in your own containers, they're more than happy to fill them up with whatever you desire.

In case you're a little lost in the salad roll department here's a little help, by way of a small preview from my forthcoming zine, to get you going in the right direction.  I usually make mine a lot crazier (with avocado, steamed sweet potatoes, etc.) but below is a much simpler version.  Since hoisin often contains wheat, I've also included my go to hoisin peanut sauce recipe, in case you can find this xgfx one

Vietnamese inspired Salad Rolls and Hoisin Peanut Sauce
Makes a belly-full

What You Need:
  • 8" rice/tapioca paper
  • rice noodles (bun noodles)
  • herbs: green lettuce, basil, mint, and cilantro leaves
  • tofu in a form you like:  baked, fresh or fried
What You Do:
  1. Boil the noodles in plenty of water until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again and set aside.
  2. Find a lipped tray wide enough to accommodate your rice paper and fill with an inch or so of warm water.
  3. Prepare a work station by laying a clean and smooth kitchen towel down on a flat surface(pick a towel wider than your papers).
  4. Place a rice paper in the water and let soak until just flexible.
  5. Carefully transfer it onto your towel and smooth out any wrinkles.
  6. Since the papers are translucent, choose your first goody carefully, it'll show through and make your rolls look fancy. For prettiest presentation, start with something that'll add color like the green herbs.  Add a little bit of noodle on top of that, some protein and then whatever you fancy.
  7. Carefully roll the puppy up. Dip 'n' Eat.
Peanut Hoisin Sauce
Makes enough for 6-8 salad rolls.

What You Need:
  • 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
  • 4 tablespoons warm water, divided
  • 2-3 tablespoons xgfx hoisin sauce (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari
  • Sriracha
What You Do:
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the peanut butter with 2 tablespoons of warm water. At first the peanut butter will break apart in the water, but if you keep stirring, it will emulsify and become thick and smooth. Once the peanut butter comes together, gently stir in the remainder of the water.
  2. Mix in 2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce and the tamari. Blend well and taste. Adjust to taste with an additional tablespoon of hoisin if you want.
  3. Serve with Sriracha, or stir some in to taste.


  1. Oh my gosh. Fresh tofu is the best thing in the world, Vietnamese food is the best thing in the world, salad rolls are the best thing in the world. There can be THREE BEST THINGS.

  2. okay, wait. The vermicelli is in the tofu too?! And a block is $0.69? Mind blown again.

  3. OH MY GAWD. That tofu with all the goodness of the universe in it!!! It's freaking me out. I want to go to there!

  4. That tofu. THAT TOFU!

    I can't decide which dish I want most because everything looks so delicious.

  5. Wow! I love tofu & I wish I had that place near me...I might have to move!

  6. That green onion tofu looks amazing!


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