Yong Tau Foo, Malaysia’s Favourite Stuffed Beancurd, Was Born Of Indecisiveness
Malaysian Yong Tau Foo actually features more than just stuffed tofu.
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The biggest problem Malaysians face every day is what to eat. You might feel like char kuey teow but your family wants nasi lemak. We get it. We have so much good food that sometimes we just want to eat everything.
But one of our favourite stuffed beancurd dishes, Yong Tau Foo, was actually born of that indecisiveness!
Legend has it…
Apparently, a long time ago, in what is now Guangdong, China, there were a pair of best friends. They were so close, they did everything together– including going out to eat.
However, when it came to ordering food, they had different tastes! Once, at a restaurant, one wanted to eat pork, while the other wanted to eat tofu. They continued to argue about the food choices, becoming more and more agitated. To keep the peace, the restaurant owner had an idea to merge both their wants into a single dish.
He stuffed minced pork into a brick of tofu and cooked it, coming up with a dish that would satisfy both customers. Thus, meat-stuffed-tofu was born!
Whether or not the legend is true, Yong Tau Foo is a traditional Hakka dish that was mainly cooked for celebrations or for guests.
Another less exciting origin story states that when the Hakka people shifted to Guangdong, there was a shortage of flour. Flour was needed to make dumplings, a dish that is well-loved and considered a must-have at celebrations.
So, as an alternative, the Hakka people took beancurd and used that as a “skin” for the dumpling filling, which is also often a blend of minced pork and seasonings.
“Foo” of stuff
Traditional Hakka-style Yong Tau Foo features meat (often pork, or mixed with shrimp) paste stuffed into tofu, then fried or braised, and served in stew or sauce. The stuffed tofu is a dish to be eaten on its own or with rice.
The Yong Tau Foo that we dig in to here in Malaysia has evolved with influences from Hokkien and Cantonese groups, making it quite unique.
For one, Malaysian Yong Tau Foo can be served either dry with dipping sauces, drizzled with curry, or in a bowl of soup. There are also a much wider variety of stuffed items, usually vegetables such as chili, bittergourd (aka bitter melon), okra (aka lady’s finger), cabbage, or brinjal (aka eggplant), and even stuffed into other foods such as fish balls, crab sticks, or sotong.
Often times, patrons can choose exactly which ones and how many pieces they want, making it perfect for even the pickiest eater with a small appetite.
Linguistically, “Yong Tau Foo” in Malaysia also refers to this range of food collectively, and not only the stuffed tofu itself.
Where to get some?
There are plenty of Yong Tau Foo restaurants just a quick Google search away, though the most famous ones are located in Ampang.
Better yet, there are a handful Yong Tau Foo restaurants that have changed up the recipe to be halal-compliant, so our Muslim friends can also enjoy the wonders of deep fried stuffed tofu and vegetables!
Are you craving for Yong Tau Foo? Have a restaurant to recommend? Let us know on TRP’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.