america's oldest tofu house
Ota Tofu vision for future rooted in company’s traditions
America’s oldest tofu company leads way in healthy menu/diet options! Ota Tofu is a small, family-owned business in Southeast Portland that over 108 years has a built reputation as the producer of the finest, freshest tofu in the region. Ota is a hidden gem in Portland’s vibrant food scene that provides a hand-crafted staple for NW groceries and restaurants providing demanding customers with quality, healthy and tasty ingredients in their meals.
Tofu is a soy bean curd that dates back more than a thousand years ago, getting its start in China and making its way to Japan a couple of hundred years later. Benjamin Franklin is the first American known to mention tofu, including a mention of it in a letter he wrote in 1770.
When the Ota family started their business in 1911, it provided a healthy taste of home for Portland’s thriving and rapidly growing Japanese immigrant community. Ota Tofu is now the oldest producer of tofu in the United States and one of the oldest in North America.
The first Ota Tofu blocks were cooked in gas-fired brick ovens and except for a four-year period during World War Two, they have been a mainstay of the Asian-American community even since. During the war, the Ota’s, along with tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans along the west coast, were forced to give up their homes and businesses and forced to move east or live in internment camps spread across the western US. Fortunately for the Ota family, a sympathetic landlord protected their original location in Northwest Portland and at the end of the war the Ota’s were able to resume producing Tofu for Portland’s Asian-American community.
It took a little longer for the broader community to come to appreciate value and flavor tofu can bring to your meals and diet. In 1986, USA Today declared it the most loathed food in America. Today, tofu is a prized ingredient across a variety of cuisines and the star of increasingly popular vegetarian and meat-alternative recipes in American restaurants and kitchens!
As Portland’s (and the Northwest’s) food scene continues to grow in national and international stature, Ota Tofu itself has established a reputation for producing quality tofu that adds a fresh, natural element to salads and meals. Ota Tofu products are available at more than 150 restaurants and food carts serving a diverse line of ethnic cuisines including Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Thai, NW farm-to-table and Mexican.
In 2019, Ota Tofu was bought by the Ogata Family, maintaining Ota’s roots in the Japanese-American community while ensuring its history and identity as a family-owned business is passed on to a new generation of Oregonians! A dedicated team of employees, some of whom have been with the company for as many as 25 years, produce the finest tofu in the NW. Because of their handmade process that has been perfected for over 10 years, Ota brand tofu is the preferred choice of restaurants and food carts seeking to provide their customers with the highest-quality, most tasteful menu options.
While committed to maintaining the values and traditional production process that established Ota Tofu’s reputation for quality for than a hundred years, the Ogata’s also have an eye to the future. As the new owners of Ota Tofu, they are exploring exciting new tofu uses and recipes that will make Ota Tofu an even more vibrant part of a Northwest food scene that attracts foodies from around the world seeking the adventurous and cutting-edge meals emerging from NW restaurants and food carts. While it celebrates and honors a tradition deeply rooted in Portland’s historic Asian-American community, Ota Tofu is poised to become a key member a culinary community that continues to lead the way in producing exciting, healthy and environment-conscious food and menu choices!