Dig­ging into Chi­na­town's best tofu pud­dings

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - BY KHIN WINE PHYU PHYU Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

FA­MOUS for its bustling Chi­na­town, Yan­gon’s Latha town­ship comes to life at around 3pm each day. Among the ven­dors sell­ing snacks, gro­ceries and clothes is U Soe Shwe who sets up shop at a car park in front of a depart­ment store.

There he sells a rare treat – tofu pud­ding – known in Myan­mar lan­guage as pe­baung, a healthy snack that many take as a diet sup­ple­ment, to re­lieve stom­ach pains and to in­crease me­tab­o­lism. Pe­baung is a home-cooked favourite in Chi­na­town as peo­ple of all faiths and creeds line up to get a taste.

Much like the recipe for mak­ing Shan-style tofu, tofu pud­ding is a labour (of love) in­ten­sive process. First, U Soe Shwe soaks dry soy­beans in wa­ter overnight and grinds them into a paste in the morn­ing. From there, he boils this mix­ture and it be­comes a sort of soy bean milk. The last step is to add a nat­u­ral sub­stance to turn the milk into a jelly, and pour a bit of gin­ger syrup for a zesty taste.

Though U Soe Shwe de­clined to say what the se­cret in­gre­di­ent is, as it has been a fam­ily tra­di­tional recipe for years, he as­sured The Myan­mar Times that he does not use any chem­i­cal prod­ucts to make the pud­ding.

Orig­i­nally from Mayan­gone town­ship, U Soe Shwe comes to Latha every day ei­ther driv­ing his car or tak­ing the cir­cu­lar train. When he needs to fill up or­ders, U Soe Shwe rolls up in an in­dus­trial Tow­nace car, trans­port­ing tofu from his home to the street cor­ner in Latha.

In one day’s work, U Soe Shwe uses twelve pyis of dried soy beans. He uses five for soy­bean milk and seven for tofu pud­ding.

Along with U Soe Shwe’s tofu pud­ding shop, there are only three other ven­dors mak­ing pud­ding in Chi­na­town, serv­ing up an old favourite to a steady stream of hun­gry cus­tomers. “We would say pe­baung is a kind of medicine as well as a dessert,” he said. U Soe Shwe, now nearly 50 years old, has sold tofu pud­ding and soy­bean milk since he was 17 years old.

While buy­ing some pe­baung, one of his reg­u­lar cus­tomers said that even as they get older and older, U Soe Shwe has kept the style of his stall and the qual­ity of his food de­li­ciously con­sis­tent through­out th­ese years.

His home­made soymilk is quite dif­fer­ent from the soy milk one can pur­chase at the store. The soymilk is so fresh, it must be en­joyed right af­ter U Soe Shwe adds a spoon­ful of su­gar. As he doesn’t use any preser­va­tives, the milk will spoil in a day’s time.

Right af­ter most of­fices close for the evening, cus­tomers flock around U Soe Shwe’s stall, and he and his as­sis­tant rush to serve the small crowd.

Ma My­itzu, a 45-year-old res­i­dent of Latha town­ship, said, “Pe­baung is very good for di­ges­tion. It is rich in pro­tein and is good for the skin.”

U Soe Shwe’s tofu es­pe­cially is a Latha town­ship sta­ple, where he is known as the best tofu maker. Some even say their days were ru­ined when they had to work late and miss the chance to en­joy U Soe Shwe’s ex­pertly sliced silky, smooth treat. –

Pho­tos: Aung Htay Hlaing

Part-desert and part-nu­tri­tion sup­pe­ment, the Myan­mar tofu pud­ding known as pe­baung is a sta­ple in Chi­na­town.

Street ven­dor U Soe Shwe has been ladling it out for more than 30 years.

The Myan­mar spe­cialty is con­sid­ered good for the skin.

A jelly-like sub­stance, pe­baung takes all day to pre­pare.

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