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Supersoft tofu pudding offers silky satisfaction

Craig Gima
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The soft tofu dessert is served with a sugary ginger sauce.
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Jun Lai Liang, owner of Hometown Noodle Factory in Chinatown, scoops up a serving of dou fu da.

Jun Lai Liang used to make and sell noodles at his Hometown Noodle Factory stall in Chinatown.

Not anymore.

"Before, when I make noodles, I was working hard every day. I lose money," Liang said. "Now, I make soft tofu and soybean milk, not work too hard and more people buy it."

Customers line up every morning for the warm, supersoft tofu pudding, sometimes called dou fu da or douhua in Chinese, or tao pho in Vietnamese.


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Liang makes one pot, opens at 8 a.m., usually sells out by noon, and finishes work by 1 p.m.

He still makes noodles for wholesale customers, and also makes and sells frozen dumplings. But people come for the dou fu da.

His tofu pudding is silky smooth and the ginger in the sugar sauce adds a savory bite. It’s $3.25 for a large container and $2 for a small container.

His shop at 135 N. King St. is hard to find, but worth seeking out. It’s in the back of the marketplace on Kekaulike and King streets, across from Oahu Market. Go past the vegetable market in the front and it’s just before the fish stalls.

Liang switched to tofu from noodles because he noticed that no one else in Chinatown was making dou fu da. He said he went through 120 pounds of soybeans before he came up with a recipe he thought would sell.

"You got to mix it good," he said.

Dou fu da is also sold at Mrs. Cheng’s Tofu Factory, 233 Kalihi St. A container, bigger than Liang’s, sells for $3.70 with a sugar syrup (no ginger).

Mrs. Cheng’s tofu pudding is still silky soft, but more solid with less water than Liang’s. It’s sold cold, but can be heated up at home. You can also heat the sugar sauce with a little ginger. A friend likes it better because it has more tofu taste. Eating it hot or cold is a matter of personal preference.

Japanese tofu makers generally don’t sell dou fu da as there is no similar dish in Japan, said Paul Uyehara, president of Aloha Tofu.

Local Japanese prefer soft tofu in the traditional Japanese way — with soy sauce and ginger, Uyehara said.

But Uyehara has been developing a niche market for nontraditional tofu desserts using soy milk and okara, a byproduct of the tofu process. He sells tofu mousse, tofu cheesecake, okara cookies, okara cream puffs and other confections at the Aloha Tofu Town store at Dole Cannery and at the factory at 961 Akepo Lane.

"I think the traditional market will always be there. I believe tofu is a comfort food, " Uyehara said. "Tofu or soy milk as a base is really adaptable as a flavor. … If people try tofu desserts I think they will be surprised at what’s available."

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