Hanoi is a street food-lover’s paradise, but for first-time visitors, the plethora of options can be a bit overwhelming. Have no fear though, as we’re here to introduce you to one of the city’s top desserts, “tao pho” or tofu pudding.
Tofu pudding on Hanoi streets
On the streets of the capital you’ll likely hear the cries of tofu pudding sellers looking for customers: “Tào phớ đê!” (“Here’s the tofu pudding!”). They ride bicycles with the front basket full of small bowls and takeaway cups, as well as a big pot of tofu pudding, a bottle of sugar syrup, a bag containing a handful of fresh jasmine flowers, and a small ice cooler.
As tofu pudding is made from soybean, which is thought to have a natural cooling effect when eaten, this dessert is very popular in the summer. A bowl of tofu pudding looks incredibly simple but is refreshing and full of summery flavors.
Even watching the dessert being made is a satisfying and relaxing experience. First of all, some ice cubes are put into the serving bowl to cool the heat of the tofu pudding.
Second, with a sharp flat metal spoon, the seller skillfully scoops out some thin slices from the hot pudding in the pot and quickly puts them into the serving bowl. After pouring some sugar syrup into the bowl, jasmine flowers are added on top to decorate as well as creating a gentle floral scent and flavor.
Tofu pudding can be found up and down the country, with variations in ingredients and preparation from place to place. From the vendors that cycle around serving traditional cups of tao pho with soybean milk, tofu and yellow sugar, to bigger, modern shops with added ingredients, tao pho is a Hanoian favorite. In the central region, tao pho is called “dau hu”. It differs slightly in flavor to tao pho. The taste of dau hu is more pungent and very unique. Further south, all dishes are generally sweet. The tao pho is thickened with coconut milk and called “tau hu”. Residents of Saigon usually eat dau hu with hot syrup but during the summer months, dau hu with ice and cool coconut water is popular among students after a hard day at school.
As a visitor, spending a few minutes stood on the pavement watching how the delightful snack is made and then savoring every bite of the summer treat is an experience you’ll cherish.
Nowadays, from small stalls to big, modern shops, tofu pudding can be found everywhere in Hanoi. You can go for original flavors or versions with new, exciting ingredients. Jelly Bean (on Quang Trung Street) is one of the most popular tofu pudding spots for young people. From tofu pudding with red beans and coconut milk, to coffee and chocolate, the diversity of its menu has proven a big hit.
To sample the dish, you can buy from a street hawker on many streets in the Old Quarter or try one of these outlets, starting from VND 10,000 only:
• Vua Tao Pho, 192 Hang Bong Street – 50 meters from Silk Path Hotel Hanoi
• Jelly Bean, 28 Quang Trung Street – 950 meters from Silk Path Boutique Hanoi