A couple Sundays ago, the hubs and I had dim sum in Flushing, Queens. For those not familiar with NYC - Flushing is considered the Chinatown of Queens, New York. It's where we go when we crave authentic Asian cuisine - especially Taiwanese or Chinese food. It had been a while since we had good dim sum - delicious bites of savory goodness in mini bamboo steamers, paired with fragrant jasmine tea...the perfect brunch for a Sunday afternoon.
One of my favorite treats at dim sum is a dessert (of course) called "dou hua", or tofu pudding - I always save room for a bowl of this delicate, smooth pudding topped with a light sugar syrup at the end of the meal. However, that Sunday, we weren't able to spot the dou hua cart so I asked the waiter if it was being served - to my dismay, he said, no, not today. I was crushed - the tofu pudding is something I always look forward to whenever I have dim sum in Flushing.
So, naturally, I went home that day with a craving for tofu pudding. What was I going to do? It's not every week that we go into Queens - especially this winter! So, I had to do what every foodie would do - I made my own!
Now, this recipe I used is not the traditional method of making dou hua, rather it's a shortcut substitute for the real thing. Authentic dou hua requires soaking soybeans and basically making your own soy milk and adding specific types of coagulants to the milk to create the solid yet silky texture of the pudding. I simply don't have access to all the necessary equipment or ingredients so I found a quick and easy recipe using two ingredients that can be found in most pantries these days. Soy milk and gelatin - that's all it takes! You won't get the silky, delicateness of traditional Chinese dou hua, which, translated means "bean flower" - because every time you dig your spoon into the bowl, the pudding will break up into smaller pieces...creating a flowering effect.
Tofu pudding can be served warm or cold - I like it both ways, topped with a simple sugar syrup. In most dim sum places, it is served warm with a ginger-infused sugar syrup. In Taiwan (where my family is from), it can be topped with cooked peanuts, tapioca pearls, adzuki or mung beans. This version is firmer (due to the gelatin), almost like panna cotta without the heavy cream...but certainly good enough to hold me over until my next trip to Flushing!
adapted from this recipe
4 cups soy milk
1/2 oz gelatin (2-1/4 oz packets)
2 cup sugar
4 cups water
Pour soy milk into a medium saucepan. Whisk in gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Heat soy milk over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. Once soy milk begins to boil, remove from heat. At this point, you may strain into large casserole dish or into individual ramekins. Once cooled, chill in refrigerator overnight or until set.
In a small saucepan, pour in 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and heat on low heat until sugar browns. Do not stir. Once the sugar starts to brown, remove from heat. Stir in the remaining sugar and water. Return to low heat and stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat to cool. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve with tofu pudding.
To serve, spoon pudding into individual bowls or simply add sugar syrup to taste.