Taho – soft, mildly sweet bean curd served floating in a thin, dark caramel syrup with tapioca balls – has long been the dessert of choice of many people in Asia, particularly in places where there has been a strong Chinese influence. It is known elsewhere as tauhu fa (doufu far) and is considered a nourishing breakfast by a number of people.
Here in the Philippines, taho is normally sold by itinerant vendors who carry massive steel drums containing soy curd and accoutrements on the street. Five pesos gets you a warm bowl of sweetness, so much better and lighter than most breakfasts, and yet just as satisfying
And now, thanks to Mr. Bean, taho has been given a refreshingly modern spin.
Mr. Bean is a Singaporean import that recently set up shop here in the Philippines. I first encountered the brand on the Aussie blog Raging Yoghurt where it was described as:
…a mr bean outlet, offering not just a range of traditional chinese soy milk products, but also new-fangled curiosities like roasted hickory-smoke-flavoured soy beans and soft-serve soy milk ice cream.
And it does just that: it serves chilled taho in syrup, soy milk drinks and smoothies, soybean snacks, and soy ice cream.
Now, the problem with most supermarket taho is that it has this rather off texture, more chalky and grainy rather than smooth and slippery the way the taho from one’s neighborhood vendor is. But at Mr. Bean, the soya soft-serve is deliciously creamy and quite rich. It tastes like old-school taho with caramel syrup and is beautifully smooth on one’s tongue and slides softly down your throat. They have a chocolate variant available, but why mess with a delicious classic?
Mr. Bean also has pancakes – actually, a spin on imagawayaki, those stuffed griddle cakes touted under the name Japanese cakes at oriental groceries. These cakes are easily twice the size of a regular imagawayaki and are quite a bit thicker.
The batter for these toothsome cakes is made with soy milk, as opposed to dairy milk, and – if you get them still hot off the griddle – there’s even a bit of rich soy creme in the filling that oozes out of the cake when you take a bite. You have a choice of chocolate, cream cheese, peanut butter, and kaya (a.ka. coco-jam in this part of the world). While the first three variants are all good, I recommend the pandan-infused kaya. It isn’t very sweet, is just rich and sticky enough, and the jam works nicely with the nutty flavor and fluffy texture of the cake.