Vendors taking it to the streets to earn a living peddling food is nothing out of the ordinary in Vietnam. Walk down any street and soon enough a woman balancing a long pole across one of her shoulders will cross your path. From this piece of wood balance two heavy baskets laden with her day’s bounty. Soup, fruit, meat, vegetables, or snails…. if it’s transportable it’s along for a ride.
Every morning a young girl drops anchor behind my apartment tower and hawks a flavor paced breakfast item putting most anything we have in the west to shame. Bear with me here as I describe this as it involves tofu. Yes…That dreaded food called tofu. Now I know you just rolled your eyes in disgust because you are only used to the chalky mess that comes in those plastic containers at the grocery store. Over here tofu is quite a bit fresher and made daily as it is a highly perishable item in its more native form.
The tofu girl’s restaurant consists of a few squat stools maybe four inches above the ground and for the crowd not looking for takeaway, a few porcelain bowls I have no idea how she keeps clean. Some ancient Vietnamese secrets are best kept just that…secrets. Cracking open the lids on two large aluminum pots reveals a more palatable secret which is the reason I am drawn in time and time again to this street corner. One contains warmed tofu she scoops out with one quick flick of the wrist and the other a warmed ginger sauce.
Tofu is really nothing more than a largely flavorless blank canvas awaiting a flavor infusion. Actually the syrupy sweet ginger sauce is more explosion than infusion now that I think about it. Slices of ginger have some serious tangy bite and square jelly like bits of the candied version have a wonderfully peppery taste. A generous spoonful of sweet cream binds it all together, and I just can’t get enough. Sugar and spice make everything nice, right?
I admit to now smugly laughing at people back home downing Slimfast shakes and instant breakfast drinks while on the run. While this ginger tofu probably is likely a bit more calorically challenged than a diet drink spawned from a can, I know I won’t be hungry in an hour when those chemicals constituting a chocolate breakfast drink finish shellacking my gut.
This tiny tofu stand sets up shop day in and day out, and I grab mine to go. If this girl ever takes a day off I do not know as her daily set up is as reliable as a Swiss clock. Her being a quick walk down the alley is too perfect. This one is a definite breakfast favorite of mine.