Savory Tofu Soup is a traditional breakfast which a lot of people in China and Taiwan grew up eating. Most people know of soy milk as a drink but when soy milk is heated up with vinegar, it curdles into chunks of soft delicious tofu swimming in a salty, vinegary broth (tastes kind of like a hot and sour soup).
It is often eaten with scallion pancakes, Chinese egg pancakes (Dan Bing) and crusty buns filled with pork, vegetables or sweet egg cream (Shao Bing).
There is a famous market stall in Taipei, called FuHang (阜杭豆漿) in HuaShan Market, across the road from Shandao Temple that sells freshly made soy milk as well as this savory tofu soup and traditional buns made fresh on the premises. They have an open kitchen where you can watch them knead the dough and bake the buns in huge earthen jars …. it’s great fun to watch the kitchen workers make the Shao Bing while you are in line, inching towards the cashier. It is such a popular place that there are always lines running outside the stall, down the stairs to the first floor, and sometimes snaking around the outside of the building! The queue starts from the minute the stall opens at 5:30 am to around noon when they sell out.
The savory tofu soup is actually quite simple to make it yourself at home. The ingredients can be bought ahead of time. If you live in western countries, you can find ready-made scallion pancakes and Chinese fried dough crullers at the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets. Whether homemade or ready-made, scallion pancakes go really well with this tofu soup, and you are sure to impress your family with this traditional Chinese Sunday breakfast!
Unsweetened soy milk
Chinese black vinegar
preserved vegetables 榨菜
a few stalks of spring onions, chopped
Chinese fried dough crullers 油条, toasted and cut into slices
chili oil (optional)
dried shrimp or dried Sakura shrimp (optional, may be omitted for a vegetarian option)
Heat the soy milk in a saucepan.
In a small bowl, mix together a few teaspoons vinegar, salt, pepper to taste, a drizzle of sesame oil, a few teaspoons picked vegetables, chili oil and dried shrimp, according to your own taste.
Pour the mixture into the hot soy milk and let stand for a minute, without stirring.
Ladle out the tofu soup into a serving bowl.
Garnish with chopped spring onions and Chinese fried dough crullers. Serve hot.
One interesting thing about Taiwanese is – they love their small eats (小吃 or appetizers) and there are a lot of them. In practically every noodle or dumpling restaurant, there is a glass display case where patrons can choose their side dishes – pickled cucumbers, string beans, cabbage salad, braised wings, and a wide variety of tofu dishes like braised tofu, deep fried tofu, tofu skins etc. It is not surprising since tofu products are readily available in the local markets.
When I came across some amazingly beautiful, fresh tofu skins, I had the sudden urge to try my hand at making this healthy vegetarian dish. It turned out quite well. The tofu ribbons had a smooth, creamy texture. The edamame beans provided spots of color and bite, and the snow cabbage gave it a wonderful zest. It is light, yet packed with protein. It goes well with rice or it can be eaten like a pasta. This recipe is a keeper!
3 sheets of fresh tofu skin (or similar amount of dried tofu skin)
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 -5 Tbsp preserved snow cabbage (雪菜)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup edamame (soy beans)
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
1. Rinse the fresh tofu skin. If you are using dried tofu skin, soak them in warm water for 30 mins, drain the water and rinse. Cut the tofu skins into ribbons and set aside.
2. Boil the frozen edamame beans for about 2 to 5 mins.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan, using medium high heat. Add the preserved snow cabbage. Stir for 20 seconds.
4. Add 1/2 cup water and the tofu skin ribbons. Allow it to come to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the edamame beans, oyster sauce and cornstarch, stirring all the ingredients together until they are well mixed.
This is one of my favorite dishes – simply because it is so easy to prepare! And it takes only 8 minutes to cook. I like to use either a red garouper or green garouper or a sesame garouper. A pomfret works well too. I also like to steam it together with tofu – makes for a more substantial meal and tofu goes so well with the steam fish gravy!
In Hong Kong street markets, the garouper is often sold live (swimming in a fish tank). You pick the one you like by pointing at the fish, then the fishmonger will scoop it up, weigh it and gives you the price. If you are ok with the price, he will de-scale and gut the fish for you.
1 piece soft tofu (optional) – cut into cubes
1 small piece of ginger – about 1/4 inch thickness – cut into narrow strips
1-2 stalks spring onion – sliced into 1 inch strips
light soy sauce or Lee Kum Kee brand flavored soy sauce for seafood
1-2 Tbsp cooking oil
1. Trim off part of the tail and all the fins.
2. Wash the fish under running water for a minute or two until there are no more water bubbles.
3. Place the fish on a plate, with sliced ginger strips on the top and arrange pieces of soft tofu around it.
4. Steam the fish and tofu for 8 minutes.
5. While the fish is in the steamer, heat up 1 or 2 Tbsp of cooking oil.
6. Check the fish after 8 minutes. It might take a bit longer if your fish is big. The fish is cooked when you poke a bit of its flesh and it is white and opaque. It is important not to overcook the fish.
7. Immediately turn off the stove. Sprinkle the spring onions on top of the fish, drizzle with soy sauce and sizzling hot cooking oil.