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What Is Douhua?

Lakshmi Sandhana
Lakshmi Sandhana

Douhua, also known as dòufuhua or tou foo fa, is a Chinese dessert made with silky tofu. It's a form of tofu pudding made by coagulating soy milk into soft curds. The word itself translates as "softer than tofu." The dish is served either hot or cold and comes in both sweet and savory forms. It is typically served hot with a little sweet ginger syrup.

The delicate, jelled tofu is the star of this dish, and many bicycle or pole-carrying vendors serve it with an array of condiments. Vendors on foot usually have poles slung across their shoulders, supporting two big baskets. One contains really hot, silky tofu, and the other is filled with a variety of accompaniments and bowls. This dessert is very popular in Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan. Also found in Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines, the way it is eaten varies from country to country.

Adzuki beans, which can be used to top douhua.
Adzuki beans, which can be used to top douhua.

In Vietnam, it may be served with spicy ginger, jasmine, or coconut water. It may be mixed with black sesame paste in its Cantonese form. The douhua made in Sichuan comes with nuts and Sichuan pepper and may also be eaten with rice. The most interesting version of douhua is found in Taiwan, where it is served with sugar syrup and topped with red adzuki beans, green mung beans, crunchy dry soybeans, and jellies. Tapioca pearls, green onions, oatmeal, and peanuts are some of the other toppings that vendors use.

In the winter, douhua is served warm to heat up the bones, while in summer, it is served chilled with ice to provide some relief from the heat. The savory versions of douhua may come with a variety of exotic ingredients. Su rou douhau contains pieces of breaded, crispy, fried pork, while san zi douhou is served with fried dough strips. Niu rou douhua contains hot stewed beef. Some vendors may add a little bit of lemon to give it a tangy flavor.

Making this dish at home can be quite challenging for a variety of reasons. The texture of the tofu is supposed to be soft and smooth, similar to puddings, and unless every step is followed correctly, the tofu comes out watery. Some prefer to make it from scratch using soybeans, but other cooks may use sweetened soy milk to shorten the process. When made from scratch, the soybeans are soaked in water for a couple of hours, liquefied, and strained with a fine cloth. The resulting soy milk is cooked until it boils, preferably in a clay pot, which regulates the heat and prevents the milk from burning easily.

Gypsum powder is dissolved in warm water, and some cornstarch is added to the resulting paste. The powder acts as the coagulating agent, while cornstarch thickens the mixture. The boiling soy milk is taken off the stove, and the paste is stirred into it lightly. It is then set aside to coagulate, and the dish is left undisturbed to allow the milk to turn into a smooth, pudding-like consistency. The longer it is allowed to set, the firmer it gets, and it is served hot or cold with sweet ginger syrup.

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    • Adzuki beans, which can be used to top douhua.
      By: Elena Schweitzer
      Adzuki beans, which can be used to top douhua.