Tau Foo Fah or douhua (in Mandarin) is a Chinese dessert made with very soft tofu eaten with a clear sweet syrup infused with ginger or pandan. Sometimes brown syrup is used in place of clear syrup. Usually eaten warm, it is also quite delicious chilled. In the old days, tau foo fah is sold by street vendors but today you can find it as part of the dim sum offering in Chinese restaurants.
Tau foo fah is made by coagulating soy milk with gypsum (calcium sulfate) as a coagulant. Other coagulants that may be used are nigari (magnesium chloride) and glucono delta lactone (GDL). Here in the US, gypsum can be purchased in small sachets at the Asian grocery stores but I have not seen nigari or GDL. Unsweetened soy milk in cartons can also be easily found in the regular grocery stores. You can definitely make your own soy milk but this can be a pretty involved process.
The measured amount of gypsum should be fully dissolved in hot water and mixed with corn starch. In my first attempt, I had a hard time trying to get the gypsum to dissolve. Hence, my tofu did not coagulate properly. Taste wise, it was not very good either. I was determined to give it another try.
I do like my tau foo fah cold and figured that I could use agar-agar powder instead of gypsum. My second attempt turned out quite well, although still a little on the soft side with some agar-agar solids at the bottom of the dish. I had to perfect it and so on my third attempt, I added a little vanilla extract and just a little more agar-agar powder and I strained the mixture this time. After chilling it for two hours in the fridge, the tofu was ready for the texture and taste test. Glad to say that it was a success! The texture was right and the vanilla gave it a light fragrance.
- 4 cups (960ml) soy milk (I used cold store bought unsweetened soy milk)
- 1 tbsp agar-agar powder
- ½ cup (120ml) water
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup (180ml) water
- ½ cup (110g) sugar
- 1 inch ginger, smashed
In a medium sized pot, warm up soy milk on medium heat. Do watch it as soy milk burns easily and this will give you a burnt taste in your tau foo fah which you do not want. It can also boil over.
In another pot, bring half cup water to a boil. Add agar-agar, stirring until dissolved. Pour warm soy milk and vanilla extract into agar-agar mixture and stir to combine. Turn off heat when mixture comes to a boil. Strain mixture into a large pot with lid.
Wrap lid with a clean kitchen towel and place onto pot. When it has cooled a little, transfer to the refrigerator and allow to set for about 2 hours.
Place all syrup ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Turn off heat and remove ginger.
To serve, use a flat spatula to gently cut thin slices of tau foo fah into a small bowl.
Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of syrup.
Enjoy…..and have a wonderful day!