Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Singapore Food:Yong Tofu: No Conflict Here Between Taste and Health.

More than Char Kway Teow [a messy, greasy plate of fried flat noodles garnished with squid, cockles, Chinese sausage, eggs, chive] and Roti Prata, [ a crispy Indian pancake eaten by dipping it into a Curry]; I miss the Singapore dish called Yong Tofu. Basically Yong Tofu is a dish that uses minced fish meat to be the stuffing for vegetables and items made of tofu. Above, you can see the brown triangular pieces of dried bean curd which has been stuffed with the fish paste. You can also see Chinese bitter gourd, large peppers, white pieces of soft tofu, and fish balls. There are many versions of Yong Tofu, and the number of items can be in the dozens as the newer food stalls become more inventive. Some stalls have their stuffings made of a mixture of fish and pork. Many stalls offer Convolvulus, also known as water spinach, as an item. Another common item is rehydrated cuttle-fish. But I like the simpler, purer versions of days gone by best, like this one from a shop in Telok Kurau called Golden Hill. The current cook's father was peddling his Yong Tofu as long as 50 years ago, walking the streets with two pots hanging on a stick slung across his back.

The soup and sauce that goes with the Yong Tofu is also crucial to it's overall quotient of deliciousness. The soup can be made from fish stock or soya bean stock. Golden Hill's soup uses fish stock and I prefer it to the soya bean version. The sauce is a mixture of chili [spicy] and Chinese plum sauce [sweet]. Extra features that I like about Golden Hill's Yong Tofu are the occasional availability of fish roe as an item, and the fact they always garnsh their Yong Tofu with lot's of Cilantrio [see above]. In the old days, it was the baby Cilantro that they used, which looked like Alfalfa strands, and this was even more delicious. But I gather that nobody sells the young Cilnatro anymore.

In humid Singapore where the temperature at noon is 90 degrees or more all year round, your appetite for lunch takes a beating. Hot curries and greasy food appear unpalateable, and you long for something lighter. Yong Tofu fits the bill when the weather is hot. Undoubtedly, Yong Tofu is also one of the healthiest of Singapore dishes.

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