This weekend, San Francisco soy lovers are in for a treat. Saturday marks the Seventh Annual Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, a celebration of soy-based foods that attracts thousands from across the Bay Area and beyond.
The festival, which takes place at the St. Mary's Cathedral Event Center (1111 Gough St.), aims to "educate the public about the health benefits and various uses of soy and tofu," with interactive games, live entertainment, and free samples aplenty.
Festival highlights include a tofu-eating contest and dessert competition, the raffling of a $1,500 Toto washlet toilet (yes, you heard that right), and photo ops with Cutie Tofutti and Tofu Panda, the festival's two irresistible tofu mascots.
The Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival is an annual fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, which aims to document Japanese-American history and support the local community by hosting educational programs, like the annual Films of Remembrance series.
It also publishes the Japanese American community newspaper Nichi Bei Weekly.
"It has been said that we're a newspaper fueled by tofu," Kenji G. Taguma, president of the Nichi Bei Foundation, said wryly.
Taguma told Hoodline that the idea for the festival was inspired in part by the Los Angeles Tofu Festival, which ran from 1996-2007. The Nichi Bei Foundation held its first event in 2011, and has since widened its scope beyond tofu to explore the many incarnations of the soybean, including soy milk, soy sauce, miso, natto and even ink.
"We have volunteers happily coming from Sacramento every year to help," said Taguma, who is proud of the festival's efforts toward community-building and leadership development. "[It's] important to me, as we look to building the future of Japantown and the community."
The festival partners with Kikkoman, San Jose Tofu, Morinaga Tofu, and a variety of other companies and vendors to bring free samples to attendees.
It's the festival's largest and most diverse vendor offering to date, Taguma said, and organizers hope to expand in future years to include even more pan-Asian cuisines.
In addition to the culinary enticements, the festival will offer a full day of live entertainment, from Oakland-based funk band Trace Repeat to celebrated poetry slam champion and hip-hop artist G Yamazawa. Local groups San Jose Taiko, Parangal Dance Company, and Chung Ngai Dance Troupe will also be performing.
For Taguma, the festival is both a tribute to the soybean and an opportunity to support local vendors and entertainers, "which is central to our mission of keeping the community connected, informed and empowered."
Saturday's event takes place from 11am-5pm. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. The first 500 attendees will receive a free Soy and Tofu Festival tote.
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