Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sweet (This week's Photo Hunt theme)

Say the word "tofu" to many a native English speaker and they'll think of something bland and unappetizing as well as famously "good for you". While the last attribute is true enough, I think that it does this type of food a disservice to think that it can't be tasty. But having seen how tofu tends to get served up in England and non-ethnic Asian sections of the U.S.A. (i.e., often pretty plainly, ungarnished and at room temperature), I understand why tofu has gotten the reputation that it does among many residents of those territories.

In much of Asia, however, tofu is a culinary treat as well as versatile item and ingredient that is part of savoury, salty, spicy (I think in particular here of the Sichuanese speciality dish called ma po tofu) and/or sweet dishes. It also is made into a drink -- known as tao chooi (trans. "[soya] bean water") in Hokkien (my mother tongue) and tao cheong (trans. "[soya] bean milk") in Cantonese -- that's sweetened by having liquid sugar mixed into it and is a staple in Shanghainese restaurants.

Apart from drinking tao chooi, my favorite way of consuming tofu is as a dessert. As a child in Penang, it was quite a treat to get a bowl of tao hwa (literally translated as "[soya] bean flower" but more regularly plus plainly known in English as beancurd) from the tofu vendor -- who often would serve up his fare in wet markets and/or from roadside stalls -- that, like tao chooi, was liberally laced with lashings of liquid sugar.

While that already may sound quite novel and sweet to those who've never had tofu as a dessert, you really ain't seen nothing yet until you come over to Hong Kong and check out what speciality dessert shops and restaurants like Sweet Dynasty do to the humble tofu! Which gets me to my photo for this week's Photo Hunt...

To sum it all up: Yes, some of the white bits floating about in the pictured dessert really is tofu; and, although it may not be readily apparent, this enticing cold dish's base and principal ingredient actually is tofu though it's true enough that it's lavishly topped with assorted fruits (including strawberries, mangoes, lychees and kiwi fruit) that have been shipped to Hong Kong from various other parts of the world. ;b


tegdirb92 said...

wow, thanks for that post. I learned something :) Great picture.

Gattina said...

Very interesting ! and it's true that local specialities or food are often transformed or not served in the right way when you eat them abroad. My husband always complains about italian kitchen in other countries, because it's very often not "real" italian. (he is italian btw)


I just finished my lunch and I really do need some dessert. This one is so inviting.
Mine is up too.

Mama Bear June said...

Sweet AND educational! :-) SWEET Photo Hunt

Miz said...

I love Tofu, I cube it and marinate it in everything from Tempura sause to orange juice and add it to all kinds of dishes...or eat it as a snack. Thanks for more ideas!

jmb said...

As always you give us lots of information about your theme photo. Good job. It looks very delicious too.

Jenn in Holland said...

I have not ever had tofu as dessert. What an interesting post. It does look sweet and delicious.

YTSL said...

Hi tegdirb92 --

Thanks for visiting again and again, and for feeling that you learn something from reading my post(s)! :)

Hi Gattina --

What's sad is when people eat at a foreign restaurant in their own country, not like what they had and decide that a whole entire national cuisine is not good based on that one experience. On a brighter note: Maybe your husband won't agree but I haven't been to Italy (yet) but think I've eaten some really good Italian food already (and in places as diverse as Zanzibar, Malaysia and Hong Kong as well as the U.S.A.! ;b)

Hi Friday's Child --

Apart from dessert, I think that the featured tofu dish makes for a good afternoon tea snack too. :)

Hi Mama Bear June --

Glad you think so! :)

Hi Miz --

You're welcome and hope you have a good weekend!

Hi jmb --

Yeah, I'm so glad that the Photo Hunt is giving me the opportunity to share info as well as photos. :)

Hi Jenn in Holland --

Hope you get to try tofu as a dessert sometime and that when you do so, it's to your liking. :)

Heart of Rachel said...

I love tofu. It has a lot of great possibilities. I enjoyed your post and learned interesting things. Thanks for sharing.

CRIZ LAI said...

Awww...can I have one bowl..maybe two or three? That bowl looks so tempting. Happy Weekend :)

YTSL said...

Hi "Heart of Rachel" --

Thanks for enjoying my post! :)

Hi Criz Lai --

You can have as many bowls of that tofu dessert as you want if you come over to Hong Kong and head over to the Sweet Dynasty restaurant (on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui)... :b

meeyauw said...

I always learn a lot from you. That was fascinating!

YTSL said...

Hi Meeyauw --

Thanks for your kind words and hope you'll take the time to check out my non-Photo Hunt entries then... :)

lissa said...

Sounds delicious, I ought to try that.I do eat tofu occasionally but it was always cooked, didn't know it can be dessert.

YTSL said...

Hi Lissa --

My sense is that the tofu for dessert also is cooked since tao hwa (or "tao foo fah" in Cantonese) can be eaten hot or cold.

srp said...

How informative! I have had the tofu with not much in seasoning and didn't care for it. We eat a lot of soy beans cooked whole. They taste a lot like lima beans and have fiber and protein and very little carbs... my mom is diabetic and she can eat them without problem. Very interesting post and a great picture!

YTSL said...

Hi srp --

Thanks. Sounds like you might be willing to give tofu another try after reading my post -- if so, hope you won't regret your decision! :)

sbk said...

Tofu desserts at Sweet Dynasty in Hong Kong are so delicious! I highly recommend the restaurant to anyone who visits Hong Kong.

YTSL said...

Hi sbk --

For those like you who've visited Sweet Dynasty prior to around March-April this year: Please note that it's moved a few doors further up north on Canton Road and the decor of the new places is quite different from the old one. At the same time, the food is still good and the menu doesn't seem too changed from before as well. :)

alejna said...


Sorry I haven't had a chance to comment lately. I'm running behind!

I love tofu, and have had it all kinds of ways. I haven't had it too often in dessert form, though. The dessert in your picture sounds and looks oh-so-yummy!

Phoebe loves tofu, too, but she seems to be a purist: she'll only eat it totally plain.

YTSL said...

Hi Alejna --

No problem re not commenting lately; and this especially since I've not been commenting much on your blog as well! ;S

Re your tofu comments: Wah re Phoebe being a purist! All very admirable but I really do think that you're missing something (sinfully good) if you don't try tofu as a dessert... ;b