artisan tofu

In Chicago, A Love Affair with Artisan Tofu

artisan tofu

By Aimee Thompson

On a quiet stretch of Broadway Ave. on Chicago’s north side is Phoenix Bean, the city’s oldest operating tofu factory. The 30-year-old factory uses more than 1,000 pounds of soybeans each day to produce approximately 13 different types of soymilk, tofu, and bean sprout products.

Phoenix Bean’s expert tofu makers use many of the same traditional methods to produce tofu since it first opened, with an infusion of some new machinery and methods. Leading the innovation and growth of Phoenix Bean is Chicago entrepreneur Jenny Yang, who took over its ownership in 2006.

As a child in Taiwan, Yang grew up eating tofu as part of her daily meals and, as an adult living in Chicago, she became an ardent fan of Phoenix Bean’s products. When Yang learned of the previous owners impending retirement, she jumped at the chance to take over. Since then, Yang has increased the production and distribution of Phoenix Bean products.

Today, you can find its products at select Chicago-area Mariano’s stores, local farmers markets, and ethnic and artisan food retailers in Illinois and six other states. But, for the full experience, you should visit the factory where you can buy its products from 9 am – 3 pm six days a week – and peek at the tofu craftsmanship happening within the confines the glass-fronted factory.

Never one to sit idle, Yang has big aspirations for Phoenix Bean. In addition to renovating the 100-year-old building where the factory is located, Yang plans to open a retail store just down the street where you can buy Phoenix Bean products and participate in cooking classes.

Thanks to Yang, Chicago’s oldest operating tofu factory has a bright future that stands to benefit tofu enthusiasts across the country.

Phoenix Bean, 5438 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago, IL 60640, www.PhoenixBean.com

About the Writer

Aimee Thompson is an urban explorer, busy raising two world citizens in Chicago. She is a communications consultant, blogger and writer. You can follow along with her local and global discoveries on her blog (www.chicagonow.com/raising-world-citizens/), Facebook (www.facebook.com/RaisingWorldCitizens) and Twitter (@aimeethompchi).

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