This is a logo that any Korean who cooks Korean food is very familiar with; it’s in every single Korean market that I’ve ever visited.
Pulmuone (풀무원) is a very well-known brand in Korea– up there with other giant food brands. From the start, Pulmuone differentiated themselves in Korea as being the healthier (and better) alternative. I’ve tried a large number of offerings from their product lineup, and I’m almost completely faithful to their tofu; if given a choice, I’ll always pick Pulmuone Tofu when I cook.
So when their PR team reached out to see if I’d be interested in attending their event — I was only too happy to attend. Unfortunately, this was at the end of July and immediately thereafter, I was moving and had one of the busiest times of my life with visitors and other projects, so I’m only now getting around to this post.
The event was hosted at Pop Up Cafe in San Francisco — a new, sleek and clean space meant for small gatherings. With very friendly staff and a nice selection of beer and wine, we were treated to a nice cocktail hour with fellow food folks.
Within half an hour, the President and CEO of Pulmuone Foods USA, Inc., Patrick Lemoine, kicked off the event with an introduction to the company and the objective of this event. Much of the products used for this evening’s massive menu lineup would be from their Wildwood line of products — heavily geared to meat replacement products for vegetarians and vegans.
Not being either — not even being close to either — I couldn’t help but be a little apprehensive about the menu. Course after course would be non-meat but meat-esque cooking. The carnivore in me was officially nervous.
But whatever apprehension I felt was comforted by the fact that it would be Chef Tim Luym at the helm tonight, cooking up these meatless wonders. Even if you poured it out of a can, if you know how to make good food — you know how to make good food. It was assuring that the chef who previously headed up what was once the great Poleng Lounge and currently works his magic at Attic in San Mateo would be cooking. You could probably give the man concrete and some spices and he might be able to make it quite delicious.
While using Wildwood products was key, it was also the chef’s ability to take these products and do some fascinating things with them that made the event so fascinating. For example, first up was the little bowl of “cream of mushroom” soup….except “cream” would automatically make it non-vegetarian. Chef Luym used tofu in place of cream, puréed it into a smooth texture and when you took a bite, the flavors of mushroom and what tasted deceivingly similar to cream was presented.
Who’d have thunk?
The soup itself was a tad on the grainy side of things since it was tofu and not cream, but the flavors were actually spot on. There was a slight element of soy and the associated bland but creamy bitter twinge on the back of the tongue, but it actually gave regular ol’ “cream of mushroom” a nice twist.
Another Pulmuone brand, Fit Patties, was featured for the second course. It’s a chicken and vegetable blended protein patty that was breaded and fried and served as a slider. While these are healthier with less fat, they’re not meatless and tasted like they’re not meatless. If you’re a vegetarian or a flexitarian, I suppose that’s exactly what you would want — something with less meat, more veggies but gives the flavor and texture of real meat. This was a nice, small bite of food with great seasoning.
The third course is where we’d be introduced to a Wildwood product called “Meatless Crumbles“. This would be the first foray of this evening into the “non-meat-meat” world…and with one bite of this “lasagna” — I’d be converted.
From the tomato sauce the bechamel creaminess (see recipe below), it tasted like real meat and real cheese. The creaminess was deceivingly cheesy and each bite of “ground beef” was just what one would expect in a lasagna.
Meatless meatballs — go figure!
It’s a heavily seasoned soy-based meat replacement that exudes very meaty flavors, and in this case, an Italian-inspired meaty flavor. The meat crumbles in the mouth much like lean ground beef would, and the chewiness is very similar — enough so that if they hadn’t told me what was in this lasagna, I’d have presumed that it was meat.
And I am never fooled about meat vs. no meat. I know my meat! <insert fist pump>
Except….these really are quite tasty and throughout this evening, they’d showcase just how versatile this product really is.
But first, let’s get a load of this tofu first. The purity of ingredients is outstanding and completely non-GMO is good; organic is also great. But the texture of this tofu was what was most interesting. Instead of having a soft, medium and firm tofu, Onederful Tofu comes in only one selection. You touch it, and it’s soft….it feels like it may crumble and mash like soft silken tofu. You cut it and it cuts firmer than silken tofu. But you take a bit of it and it’s most like medium tofu….and then you bend it and realize it’s really not like any other tofu.
The amount of give that this tofu has compared to other tofu is impressive. You can fold it in half carefully and it won’t actually break on you. You can do that neither with regular silken tofu nor firm or extra-firm tofu — it was crumble.
As luck would have it, while I was gabbing away with others, it was mentioned that the chips sitting atop my next course called “Chilaquiles” — a scrambled eggs with “tortillas” concoction — was made of tofu. The eggs? Sure. But the claim was the CHIPS were made of tofu.
In disbelief, I took a bite of the tofu chip right then and hands down, this was my favorite creation of the evening. Sure, you’re taking something quite healthy (tofu!) and deep-frying it, but it beats deep-frying something unhealthy. Chef Luym explained that he took extremely thin slivers, and lightly coated it before deep-frying in hot oil. They were unmistakably delicious.
But in this process of me getting distracted due to an unlikely claim, I ate — and then continued to finish my plate and COMPLETELY forgot to take a photo of it. The gorgeous photo above was shot by GEVMag.com staff — it’s much better than what I’d have posted anyway.
The eggs were made of made of the Wildwood Firm SprouTofu, while the chips were made of Onederful Tofu. With the Wildwood Black Bean Dip, Chef Luym somehow made this plus tofu taste eerily similar to refried beans. With the addition of more of the amazing meatless crumbles, this dish was fun to eat and really interesting.
Take a look at this recipe that Chef Luym so generously shared with us and give it a try:
- • 1 pack Wildwood Onederful Tofu
- • ½ cup rice flour
- • ½ cup cornstarch
- • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- • salt to taste
- • oil for deep frying (pan fry ok)
- Mix rice flour, cornstarch and cornmeal in a mixing bowl.
- Drain and thinly slice Wildwood Onederful Tofu into tortilla strips.
- Place cut tofu into flour starch mixture and coat evenly.
- Heat oil to 350. Dust off excess flour on tofu strips and deep fry until golden brown and crispy, approximately 2 minutes.
- Remove strips from oil, season with salt and drain on a paper towel.
Next up was the chawanmushi (茶碗蒸し) — except what is supposed to be a steamed egg custard was eggless. Made of Onederful Tofu, this was creamy and soft — and very reminiscent of the real thing. It’s quite amazing to see that when one needs to cook without a particular ingredient (in this case, dairy) — there are legitimate substitutes one can use to get a very similar feel and flavor.
Also featuring Onederful Tofu was a Shrimp Wonton Soup. The clear soup was clean in flavors with a pronounced shrimp taste — and the tofu was both in the filling of the dumpling as well as in the soup. Delicious — I could have had more of this.
I want to take this moment to introduce a mind-blowingly delicious aioli sauce. This delightful sauce, which was brought by our table, was bright in flavors, light but offered a hefty kick to whatever you dipped into it. Based on canola oil, it’s relatively high in fat but much lower in salt than one would expect from an aioli sauce. It would easily replace mayonnaise, but also sour cream in some cases. Here’s the nutrition information.
Now, back to the food.
Up next was a trio of food. There was a Korean mandu (dumpling) — which was a Monterey Gourmet Foods premade chicken dumpling, served with a Kimchi-based X.O. sauce creation by Chef Luym. There was a deep-fried pork eggroll, which wasn’t really pork at all; it consisted of Wildwood Shitake Burger and flavored Wildwood tofu (Indian flavors).
Finally, there was a “Chow Faux Fun” — a char-siu BBQ flavor pork-“bun” type of roll based on the Mongolian-flavored Wildwood Tofu.
Isn’t it fascinating how many different “faux” dishes he could make without the usual main characters?
And when featuring so much tofu — one can’t forget the very popular Chinese dish: Mapo Tofu. Cooked with Onederful Tofu as the main ingredient, this dish also featured the meatless crumbles by Wildwood — again, quite convincing. It was more beef-like in the lasagna than here, but nonetheless, a suitable replacement.
That said — being gluten-free and without preservatives, the Meatless Meatballs (or Crumbles) offer quite a few health benefits. I have to note, though, that substitute products are not always entirely healthier than the real thing (think margarine vs. butter….or other substitute products). If you can have meat, and depending on which kind of meat, there may be healthier and lower-sodium ways to get it without using this.
But if you need a meat replacement — like I said, this one is pretty convincing.
Just when one was beginning to crave something sweet, the dessert emerged. The final dish of the evening was a bread pudding made of Wildwood Soymilk, and featuring a purple yam tapioca consisting of Onederful Tofu.
All in all, the event was a unique showcasing of all that was possible using just soy-based or substitute/alternative products geared for a healthier lifestyle. The creativity and imagination of Chef Tim Luym was noteworthy with a lot of dishes being nothing if not interesting. The actual Pulmuone products from their Wildwood brand were topnotch in quality, great in flavor and really impressive in how they formulated it to stand out in taste first and foremost. True to the Pulmuone branding in Korea, the US subsidiary of the company clearly continues on the commitment to health and good nutrition while maintaining flavor.
You can check out the Pulmuone website here.
For Wildwood products, visit this site.
In closing, I’ll post Chef Luym’s “Bechamel” recipe, which really made what is ordinarily a fatty sauce consisting of butter, flour and milk into a MUCH healthier yet very tasty, gluten-free and dairy-free version.
- • 1 quart Wildwood Soymilk
- • 2 packs Wildwood Onederful Tofu
- • 1 each onion, quartered
- • 3 each cloves
- • 2 each bay leaves
- • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- In a pot, put the soymilk, onion, cloves and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
- Remove from fire and steep for 30 minutes.
- Strain soymilk into a blender. Add 2 packs of Wildwood Onederful Tofu, one at a time to the blender while blending.
- Blend until smooth and silky. Add the nutmeg.
- Transfer to a pot and bring to a boil or reserve for a later use.