Tofu pudding, silken tofu, firm tofu, golden tofu puffs, folded tofu skins, spindly white soy bean sprouts, hot sweet soy milk, red fermented tofu, tofu knots.
Kung Woo Beancurd in Sham Shui Po illustrated the soy bean in all its manifest expressions.
After I learned to make soy milk in the traditional way with a grindstone, and then learned (often disastrously) what was involved in making tofu at home, I was fascinated to search out places in China still making old fashioned tofu. You know, the kind that’s made for taste; not for shelf life or low cost, using beans, water, a grindstone, and wooden molds that impart the faintest flavour to the curd.
What I have discovered is there aren’t many of them left – traditional tofu makers are a threatened species and the last are disappearing fast.
So when I heard about Kung Woo Beancurd from Hong Kong food writer e_ting
I knew I had to visit on my recent trip to Hong Kong.
The shop is on a chaotically busy street in Kowloon where it sits occasionally billowing out steam from the simmering soy milk out back. There is a makeshift front counter where you can buy fresh milk and tofu, and a griddle where cooked tofu snacks are fried. Inside are a few tables and stools if you’re eating in rather than taking away.
The owner continues to keep the same ‘cash register’, a rattan basket filled with money on a pulley above the counter, as his father did. His portrait hangs on the retro tiled wall at the back of the shop.
I started with a plate of assorted fried tofu bites. The shop is quite famous for their tofu squares stuffed with fish paste, but I loved the light ricotta texture of the tofu fritters studded with sweet scallions.
Then I moved on to Kung Woo’s other famous snack – their tofu pudding or tofu fa. It came straight out of the refrigerated cabinet at the back of the shop, wobbling like jelly and smooth and cool like custard. I sprinkled it with brown ginger sugar, every slippery smooth mouthful delicately bean-flavoured. Heavenly on a day so hot we were all damp with sweat.
I drank a glass of warm fresh soy milk. This was the staple ingredient from which everything else in the shop originated, and it was good. Rich, with a fresh grassy bean taste. Sensing my level of interest the owner allowed me to wander into the kitchen to have a look at the tofu-making operations. Very impressive stacks of wooden tofu molds were racked next to wooden buckets filled with soy milk strained through muslin.
One of the wooden buckets had been freshly set into tofu pudding, and the next job was to spoon the wobbling pudding into Kong Woo’s signature bowls. Those who like their tofu pudding served hot rather than cold were patiently waiting for a bowl.
In short, if you’re as passionate about tofu as I am, or even just curious about tofu, seek this place out. It was frantically busy on the day I visited and doesn’t look like sliding into extinction any time soon…but you never know.
|Tofu squares with fish paste, waiting to be fried
Kung Woo Beancurd
118 Pei Wo Street
Sham Shui Po
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Nearest MTR: Sham Shui Po