Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Taho: Breakfast in a Cup


I remember taho vendors calling out 'tahoooooo!' early in the morning, even before I was awake. They carry two huge aluminum buckets with covers made specially for the purpose of keeping the taho, brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls warm. A long wooden plank secures the buckets dangling on each end. The vendor then uses the wooden plank to carry the buckets from street to street shouting 'tahoooooo!' What a sight to behold.

Taho is said to have originated from China. Early history suggests that this was adapted by the Filipinos from the Chinese even before the Spanish Occupation since the Chinese were the ones who mostly traded with the Filipinos during that time.

Taho is made from tofu or bean curd (coagulated soy milk), that is fresh, soft and silky, with texture similar to half cooked custard. The syrup is made from caramelized brown sugar and vanilla (arnibal) and the small sago (tapioca pearls) or sometimes known as boba, is placed on top. The vendors go around selling it as early as dawn and when a taho vendor serves it, he first removes the water that’s mostly on the surface of the tofu by using a large spoon almost resembling a small paddle. After removing the water, he then spoons out layers of tofu onto a plastic cup. The syrup is then added using a small long ladle used as well to mix the syrup and the tofu a bit before topping it with tapioca (I ask the vendor not to mix mine because I prefer eating taho with a teaspoon and I love breaking the slivers of tofu myself rather than slurping it from the cup). Taho is sweet and delicate in texture, it’s mostly the tapioca that you chew. It’s meant to be savored, not gulped down. Hence, my preference for using a teaspoon when eating it. The texture of taho in your mouth can be oh so sensual.

What makes this uniquely Filipino is, even after decades since it first began, the uniqueness of how taho is sold still makes it appealing and a mark in the Philippines’ culture and history that I hope will remain constant.

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