Tofu 101 in Bellevue is much more than a tofu shop. Step inside, and you’ll find a treasure trove of treats one might find at dim sum or a Chinese bakery.
It’s easy to pass by Tofu 101 without batting much of an eye. From the name alone, I’d thought the store specializes in making tofu. And it does — but it’s much more than a tofu shop. Step inside, and you’ll find a treasure trove of grab-and-go treats one might find at dim sum or a Chinese bakery.
In that way, “Tofu 101” is somewhat of a misnomer. Some of the hot-sellers in the store: an array of both meatless and meat-filled buns, Chinese donuts and shao bing (Chinese flatbread), to name a few. Those and some other warm, ready-to-eat items — prepared in the back kitchen, visible through a glass window pane — are lined up along the far wall of the shop, buffet-style.
Tofu and other soy products, made in-house from organic soybeans, are certainly omnipresent as well. But they live mostly in the refrigerator by the entrance, to be whisked away and eaten at another time. For hungry patrons, the warmer trays of instant gratification are much more appealing.
12816 SE 38th St., Suite G, Bellevue; open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday; 425-974-1144
Once you see what you want, you’ll have to act fast. Groups of customers come in waves, and can crowd up the small space quickly. Tongs start snatching up buns left and right. At lunch hour on a Saturday, workers periodically wheeled out new, freshly- steamed batches of those buns to replenish empty buffet trays, and customers descended upon them immediately.
Most Read Stories
Some trays, however, remained empty. For those, you’ll have to wait for next time.
The menu: The shop is tiny, but its offerings are overwhelming in proportion. The buffet-style setup along the far wall contains a variety of steamed and pan-fried buns with sweet and savory fillings, including red bean, pork and cabbage. They also have chon tzu (or zong zi, sticky rice dumplings), pastries and other carb-ful treats, clearly labeled by name and price. Those seem to be the main attraction during peak hours. A couple refrigerators contain reheatable tofu products, like fried tofu, tofu pudding and soy milk. A freezer contains pre-made dumplings, wontons and chon tzu. And at the checkout counter, you’ll find more ready-to-eat items: small rice…