Singapore Stories: Soya Beancurd (Soy Pudding)

Cool and refreshing. Yvonne Ruperti

For those of you drink soy milk, I wonder if you started out the way I did: Sips of chocolate soy, then vanilla soy. After a few years, when the vanilla became too sweet for me, I finally moved to unsweetened. A glass of whole milk tastes like cream to me know, and low-fat milk seems sour. I can't even imagine what fresh-made soy milk tastes like. Some day I'll give it a go, but if you want to do it before me, try our own Serious Eats recipe for Homemade Soy Milk.

Soy milk tastes incredibly fresh and clean, and there is a dessert that makes the most of it: soya beancurd, or dou hua (soy bean curd dessert in Mandarin), tau huay in Hokkien, or simply soy pudding. Soy pudding is nothing more than soy milk which has been gelled just enough to barely hold it together. It's delicate, with a creamy melt-in-your-mouth texture. Served well-chilled, it's one of my favorite ways to crush the sticky-hot Singapore heat. And Singapore is crazy for it, with folks queuing up just to get a taste of this simple, clean flavored sweet. Mr. Bean, Lao Ban, and QQ Soya Bean are just a few of the many, many, places to slurp it, whether in a hawker center, grocery store, or dessert shop. Even 7-Eleven sells soya beancurd!

Soya Beancurd at FairPrice. Yvonne Ruperti

Competition is fierce. I've seen soya stalls pop up right next to another, and within a few months the loser is packing up their beans. Check out this post on The Bean Curd Wars.

Flavors are basic, and the pudding is eaten unadorned (no whipped cream, no sprinkles). The lightly sweetened original flavor (my favorite), almond, and chocolate seem to be the most popular. Mango, strawberry, coffee, green tea, and durian are others. Recipes vary between shops, with the differences in texture and flavor—some firmer than others, some sweet—resulting in a fan base for each business.

Lao Ban Soya Beancurd stall at Maxwell Food Center. Yvonne Ruperti

Because it's so easy to make your own pudding, I couldn't resist posting a simple recipe for an original flavor (plain) soya beancurd. Soy milk and gelatin—that's it. There are recipes that are based on powdered soy milk (I suspect some shops do this because of the super light consistency of the pudding), and some recipes incorporate powdered creamer for richness, but I chose to stick with simple, liquid soymilk, with a touch of vanilla. I used just enough gelatin to achieve a perfectly wobbly consistency. After 4 hours in the fridge, good and cold, it'll not only cool away the beads of sweat on your forehead but it's the perfect light, sweet ending you crave after ingesting a ginormous Sichuan meal.