[dropcap size=small]S[/dropcap]ay “yong tau foo” and most would think of a one-dish meal of vegetables, stuffed beancurd, and myriad other ingredients fried or blanched, either bathed in a soup or served dry, with gravy. Yet yong tau foo, as it was created by the Hakkas, is – as its name suggests – just a dish of beancurd stuffed with minced meat or fish paste mixed with salted fish, then fried or braised. Stuffed mushrooms, vegetables and other items are all latter-day additions.
Of late, local yong tau foo chain Fu Lin, which serves a deviation from the traditional Hakka style, has added another variation to the dish: sake pairing. Since taking over the brand – established in 1995 in Siglap – in 2007, proprietor Karen Teoh has been upping the dish’s cool factor. Its Telok Ayer Street outlet is a yong tau foo kitchen by day and tapas bar by night.
Its evening menu features a plate of seven pieces of yong tau foo, paired with and a smooth and dry Ichishima Tokubetsu Honjozo sake, selected by certified sake sommelier Adrian Goh. “We thought our style of yong tau foo is similar to tempura. If sake goes well with tempura, why not our fried yong tau foo?” says Teoh.
Even with these new developments, good traditions remain. The 50 yong tau foo items that Fu Lin offers are made fresh daily. While vegetable options are typically stuffed with Spanish mackerel paste, prepared fresh daily, the beancurd skins are stuffed with either fish or chicken paste. These are then doused with a generous serving of gravy, painstakingly made from stir-frying a blend of shiitake mushrooms and chicken thighs for over an hour before braising for another.
Fu Lin Bar & Kitchen, 127 Telok Ayer Street.
THREE’S NOT A CROWD
Yong tau foo can be enjoyed in a variety of ways.
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NEW LEAF PARK YONG TAU FU
Set up by former employees of Fu Lin, this store offers yong tau foo in a similar style. The gravy is not as thick and the flavours mild, but the pasty, spicy chilli compensates.
727 East Coast Road
BAGUS LA MIAN YONG TAU FU
Yong tau foo is served in six different ways here, including with tom yum and laksa gravy. Go the healthy route and have it served in a vegetable broth.
276/278 Changi Road
NGEE FOU RESTAURANT (HAKKA) AMPANG YONG TOU FOU
Each plate comes on a bed of kangkong, slathered in a savoury braised sauce replete with garlic fragrance and a sweet aftertaste.
928 Upper Thomson Road