Norwich had the first postcode, it has the biggest open-air market in the UK and now it’s the only Tofu factory in Britain using UK soya beans.
Tofu also known as Bean Curd was accidently created over 2000 years ago in China. It’s incredibly popular all over Asia and secondly in the United States. Its low in calories yet high in protein having the added bonus of Iron, Calcium and Magnesium. It’s the perfect Vegan food.
Back in October 2016 Jenny Mc Cann and her partner Steve Lepper opened Tofurei, pronounced ‘Tofu Rye’ on Pottergate in Norwich. The first café of its kind in this area – a plant based café selling all things vegan. Back then they had a small tofu machine out back where they produced their own tofu to make their own sausages, burgers, bakes and more. Along with soya milk made in to milkshakes and cakes.
It’s was Jenny’s dream to have a vegan cafe, she worked in animal care before while Steve was in education.
November 2018 saw the factory in Lenwade when they needed to keep up with demand. They now knock out 100 – 150kg of Tofu per week its sold all over Norfolk and further afield plus used for all their baking needs. They also make their own soya milk.
I went along to see how things worked –
They buy in British soya beans, soak overnight and then grind. The liquid produced from this grinding process produced soya milk.
If its soya milk they want they pasteurize it by heating in a big vat. This is then used for their milk shakes, their whippy ice-cream and their tray bake cakes.
If its Tofu they are making twice a week, the milk goes in to heated bowls with a coagulant, this sets the milk in to curds, which split from the whey. The mix is them pumped in to trays lined with cloth, compressed to draw out the whey and then cooled.
The tofu is used in their Cornish pasties, their sausages, burgers, cheesecakes and more.
Fresh cakes and bakes are driven in to the city every day. There is two full time staff at the factory rotating jobs from Tofu making, to cooking and everything’s made fresh.
Last year they sold 10,000 cakes, 10,000 sausage rolls, 3,000 pasties, 2,000 donuts and over 1,000 ice-creams.
That’s without the 20kg of tofu sold pre-week or the 10kg of Soysages, made in to 3 varieties. Plus, they make seasonal specials like their Tofu roasting joint at Christmas.
Tofurei is essentially a deli, with a small café attached selling other vegan delights like Vegan Cheese (Cheases).
That’s why they are in the process of renovating a bigger premising on St Greggory’s Alley. It will be able to accommodate more diners and be able to offer hot food plus it will develop in to evening meals, Sunday vegan roasts, events and more. Watch this space.
So, want to get your hands on some –
As well as buying from Tofurei or buying direct wholesale.
You’ll be pleased to know all the stockists and users of Norfolk Tofu – Below :-
PONO Superfood Bar – Health Food Bar, Norwich (Marinated Tofu for salad bowls)
Shiki– Japanese Restaurants, Tombland (Tofu Steak)
Roof Top Gardens– Rose Lane, Norwich
Reno Wholefoods– Wynmondham Health food Shop
The Hungry Cat – Vegetarian Café, Diss (Sausage Rolls, Cheesecake and Cakes)
Re.Source – Vegetarian Café & Deli (Scrabbled Tofu on breakfast )
Lucy’s Fish & Chips – Vegan Chip Shop, Norwich Market (Battered Sausages (soysage) and Tofu Burgers)
Frank’s Bar – Restaurant & Bar, Norwich (Cumberland Soysages for Sunday breakfast )
Rainbow Wholefoods– Norwich Mini Market
Ronaldo’s Ices – Ice-Cream Wholesaler
The Plasterers Arms – Pub & Pizzas on Cowgate
The Rose Inn – Pub on Queens Road, Burger Bar & Sausage & Mash Sundays
Hold the Front Page –
Tofurei update –
I wrote this back early last year when things were normal-ish – with the idea to finish the piece all about their new premises – now up and running, I was invited in to try some vegan cakes and tofu and end on a competed rounded piece – but Due to Covid, this wasn’t possible and I missed out on cake!
Luckily the team carried on production for take-always and delivery’s and had a short spell back in late summer with an up and running bigger café selling a wider range. Until covid 2 and 3 struck again.
One of the things I was interested about was the waste from the tofu production – the soya bean crush / pulp / puree – I love a use up and have connected many a producer through the years to make something yummy out of say Gin making orange in to marmalade etc.
So I wanted to experiment with the pulp and try and make an Israeli style hummus – it worked. I steamed the pulp for over an hour to get rid of the baddies and blended it with fresh lemon and tahini and plenty of seasoning and spice to make a version of warm hummus like they sell on the streets of Tel Aviv with many a topping like Zaatar or brown bean stew. We lavished it in chilli and were happy-ish maybe more development needed to make it as best as it can be – something else for after covid maybe.
By Zena Leech-Calton