Due to project deadlines and computer malfunctions, I wasn't able to update the Artist of the Month for November. So please enjoy an extra month of Ben Banh's great cooking. I had the tofu "Turkey" again this year and am looking forward to having another as Christmas comes closer. That 10 dollar beauty lasted me four meals!
Ben Banh, captain at the helm.
Ben Banh is the owner and manager of the vegan restaurant, Tofoo Com Chay, located one block away from San Jose State University in downtown San Jose. Although he hasn’t actually worked on any House of Chai productions, his culinary artwork has been fueling our animation ever since we learned about it!
We discovered his wonderful restaurant during the production of Cole Needs Women in the summer of 2006 and have been hooked ever since. This sometimes results in up to two visits a day. Our crew members couldn’t remember the name at first, so they affectionately nicknamed it Yum Yum and have been referring to it that way ever since. But no matter if you call it Ben’s, Yum Yum, or Tofoo Com Chay, one thing’s for sure. You’ll be in for a treat!
Ben moved to the US from Vietnam in 1980. He converted to vegetarianism in 1993 for religious and meditative purposes, and began cooking ten years ago, volunteering in kitchens of Vietnamese Temples. When taking out his friends to experience vegetarian restaurants, he noticed that they always liked the food, but thought the prices were too high. Ben vowed that if he ever opened his own shop, he would strive to create delicious food at reasonable prices.
Fortunately for the public, his plan came true. Seven years ago, Tofoo Com Chay opened and it’s been serving the community with healthy vegan delights ever since. Ben and his three person crew (Ann, Dawn, and Nga) work tirelessly from 7 am to 9 pm six days a week. When I asked what motivates him to work so hard to create such a wide range of menu items every day and keep coming up with new dishes, Ben smiled said “I’m inspired by keeping people happy.”
And happy they are. Usually greeted by name, patrons of Tofoo Com Chay have a cornucopia of meals from which to choose. Pre packaged platters such as fried rice, fresh spring rolls, and roti drumsticks are available on the counter for just a few dollars. Rice plates are available with a choice of one to three items and the selections are numerous; teriyaki tofu, curry, chow mein, lemongrass tofu, “chicken” salad, Thai basil tofu, and the list goes on. Steaming bowls of Pho and other noodle soups are available to eat there or to go. A variety of sandwiches are available as well. Last year during the holiday season, Ben even came up with a delicious “turkey”, filled with stuffing and with roti drumsticks attached.
Ben and his crew should be
proud of the work they do. Tofoo Com Chay promotes personal health, compassion for animals, a healthy ecology, and damn good cooking!
It’s for these reasons that the House of Chai holds it chopsticks high in honor of Ben Banh for the month of October, National Vegetarian Month. Go vegetarian and go to Tofoo Com Chay!
Tofoo Com Chay
388 E Santa Clara St.
San Jose, CA 95113
Mon-Fri: 9am-9pm; Sat: 10am-6pm; Closed Sundays
click here to visit the main website
Map by Google, click for interactivity
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