Bite-sized chats with plant-based eaters talking about food and life in Brighton.
Meet Aye, the creator of Fu Fighters tohu - the chickpea alternative to tofu with Burmese roots and Brighton soul. (Oh, and she puts on a great Supper Club too.)
My name is Aye Mya Oo. Super unusual here in the UK - it’s of Burmese origin. Little known fact for you: Burma (Myanmar) is the only culture where you do not take a family name. So actually Burmese people are 2 given names at birth, so my given name is Aye Mya and I inherited Oo because it was my late father's second name. Aye Mya means ‘Cool Emerald’ in Burmese.
I’m really enjoying the learning curve of starting a business from scratch, it’s ups and downs but every day I learn something new about myself. It’s such a nice buzz when people have tried it and love it and that’s the best part of the job ☺
Describe your diet:
I am 99.99% plant-based. I never say 100% because there has been the odd occasion where I'm a guest and I don't want to put people out. And similar with wine if people are pouring a glass!
I eat wholefoods as much as possible, for more energy and fewer pimples on my face!
That said, I can’t resist fried foods. I’ll eat anything fried! And when travelling, if I’m stuck for a vegan option, chips with salad become every vegan’s savior.
How long have you been eating like this?
My foray into food preferences began when I was 12 years old; deciding I no longer wanted to eat meat for moral reasons. Growing up in an Asian household, this was met with disbelief! Most Asian cuisine doesn't use much cheese so that meant there was almost no cheese in the house anyway, but I was forced to drink milk as a very small child.
This veggie stage continued until I was 21 years old, when, for a bit, the idealism aspect was hammered out of me I guess and I succumbed to “reality” and ease of living.
However, after becoming increasingly disheartened with feeling a lack of control in my life, I went back to plant-based eating in March 2017, which felt like a natural choice.
Your top three places to eat in Brighton at the moment...
- I love the vibe and colour of La Choza in North Laine
- I regularly take the kids to Fatto O Mano for firm family favourite: pizza.
- ...and another pizza favourite: Purezza. Like with Fatto; the best pizzas you don't have to be plant-based to love
I miss BeFries! They did the best chips and sauces in the world.
Food you just can’t get enough of...
I’ve just discovered the joys of making creamy sauces with cashew nut, so I’m overdosing on pasta dishes that I thought were the thing of the past! Mac’n’Cheese, Lasagne and....
...another huge one: toast with vegan butter! After Naturli’s Vegan Block came out, I’m simultaneously ecstatic and cursing them, I can’t stop eating sourdough toast!
What do you think is missing from Brighton’s food scene?
Brighton has an amazing food scene and it really does have options for everyone. Lots of great places will happily feed both plant-based and meat-eaters really well.
But for me, protein is missing! I find some chefs who aren’t used to cooking for vegans offer the most wonderful veggie dishes but do not add enough (or any) protein. So as nourishing as it is, I sometimes come out a bit hungry.
What’s your signature dish?
I love making Asian noddle salads. It’s all in the toppings! Perfectly fried shallots, crushed salted peanuts, crisp spring onion, coriander and chillies.
To make a dressing that hits the spot, use some of the oil that you used to fry the shallots with and it adds a depth to any Asian dressing.
What gave you the idea to start Fu Fighters?
Fu Fighters was actually a light bulb moment from my mum, Su Su. She has been cooking me this Burmese tofu for years. Tohu fritters were a staple in my house growing up as well as being my Dad's favourite.
I’ve always been drawn to the idea of working for myself and so one day when standing in my Mum's kitchen, I thought, 'Why not?'. Let’s give it a go. Nobody else sells it and with this huge shift in dietary awareness happening, now has got to be a good time.
Why is tohu better than tofu?
I love tofu as much as the next person, so I won’t knock it! However, Tohu is made from a chickpeas not soya beans. So if you wanted to reduce the amount of soy in your diet, and as a veggie, it’s in so many of the alternatives, it’s great to have another option. It tastes great, it adds a little more to the flavour of any dish and it’s super versatile.
What are your main brand principles?
It’s about bringing a bit of my heritage back into my life and celebrating it. I wanted it to be a fun brand. The bright colours and block fonts were chosen so that it would not take itself too seriously and move away from the idea that vegans were hemp-wearing hippies (ps. I love hemp and hippies too!)
My brand is all about not being preachy. It’s simply a food that is made from chickpeas and if you want to try it, you might like it.
I did a lot of preaching in my teen years, and one of the best things about growing into yourself is that you feel much less need to convert every person you meet into your way of thinking.
What did you do before?
I’ve worked in so many different industries, from financial insurance to managing pubs, but immediately prior to starting Fu Fighters, I worked with The Bonniemob (baby and kids fashion brand) and also worked freelance as a graphic designer. All my jobs have added a string to my bow that has helped me rustle my little business up.
Where can we buy it?
I’m really happy to be stocked in Brighton institutions: Infinity Foods and Hisbe, alongside smaller local food stores such as Kernels of Hove and Down to Earth.
Tohu also sells really well to kitchens all over Brighton and beyond from Veeg partner Neighbourhood in North Laine to The Railway in Portslade and so many in between. We also sell through Foodchain, a London-based app that links small producers with kitchens. And we are at Silo London which was once in Brighton.
I always have fun working with Gem of Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen on our supper clubs. The most recent one we did was at 640East in Brighton.
What's the most exciting thing you've seen done with tohu?
Tohu is so versatile! Lots of places use it in the brunch Scrambles that seem to be a firm favourite. However, I’ve seen evidence of it being made into a smoky bacon alternative, for a vegan BLT that is crazy!! That’s Gem's creation and I’m yet to attempt it myself.