Yong tau foo - Chinese dialect for 'stuffed beancurd' - was invented by the Hakkas. Originally-stuffed-with-minced-pork beancurd, this is an easy dish to embrace.
These days, yong tau foo is more than just beancurd. It has evolved into a colorful smorgasbord of stuffed beancurd products like beancurd puffs and beancurd skin, as well as vegetables like bittergourd, chilli, and eggplant. In addition, minced fish paste is the preferred filling - to include our non-pork-eating dining companions, we think.
Besides being one of the healthier options in hawker centres, yong tau foo is popular because it can be enjoyed in many ways — on its own in clear soup or 'dry', drizzled with sweet sauce and chilli. Paired with noodles or rice, it becomes a more substantial meal.
Yong tau foo stalls are dime a dozen, but many 'cheat' by getting their supplies from external sources. There’s only a handful left who continue the labour-intensive process of making their own fish or meat stuffing. For these dedicated vendors, the art of yong tau foo is truly a labour of love.
Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu
Occupying two units — one for the production line, the other to prep customers’ orders — this five-person family team hand-makes yong tau foo on a frantic, non-stop basis. A minimum twenty-minute queue is no deterrence for faithful regulars eager for a steamy bowl of Xiu Ji’s distinctive yong tau foo (from $3) topped with their signature crispy ikan bilis.
The beauty of Xiu Ji’s yong tau foo lies in its simplicity and incredible freshness. Only four different items are available, but quality more than makes up for lack of variety; gorgeously soft yet springy, the tasty and succulent fish paste is like no other.
Packed with natural sweetness, the soup is delightfully clear and refreshing. The piquant chilli-lime dip deserves special mention too, for its potent kick. Exceptional.
Xiu Ji Ikan Bilis Yong Tau Fu | Address: Blk 335 Smith Street, #02-87/88 Chinatown Complex Food Centre | Opening hours: Daily 5.45am-3pm
Goldhill Hakka Restaurant
There’s no option of noodles or rice here; Goldhill Hakka’s yong tau foo (from $4) is so hearty you don’t need any carbohydrates to fill you up.
Stuffed to bursting point, seven different items of yong tau foo are served dry-style on a plate, topped with a light drizzle of fragrant shallot oil. Like us, you'll polish off your plate but won't end up with the uncomfortable, heavy sensation other yong tau foos tend to induce.
For those used to eating smooth fish paste, Goldhill’s coarse texture would be an acquired taste. The stuffing is made of pounded ikan parang (wolf herring) - it gives a rustic wholesomeness that is refreshing, and ultimately, very addictive. Their unique blend of sweet sauce is just as unforgettable.
Goldhill Hakka Restaurant | Address: 299 Changi Road | Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11.30am-4pm
Yong Xiang Xing
They open at around 1.30pm, a time when most folks are already finishing lunch. Yet, once the shutters are up, there’s a constant stream of customers and food is sold out in just three hours. They only serve a standard set of four different items in soup ($3.50). Noodles or rice are not available.
What’s the allure of Yong Xiang Xing’s yong tau foo? We think it's their unpretentious style and consistent quality they smeared with a respectable amount of stuffing. The selection is fresh and wholesome.
The two kinds of beancurd — steamed and fried — are both smooth and tasty. The fishball bounces on the side of average, though we like the fried beancurd skin with its extra juicy and bouncy stuffing. The soup is a tad on the sweet side, but sufficiently light and flavourful.
Yong Xiang Xing | Address: Blk 32 New Market Road, #01-1084 People’s Park Food Centre | Opening hours: Tue-Sun 1.30pm-4.30pm
Hakka Yong Tau Foo
The nice thing here is the extensive selection of both fish paste as well as traditional Hakka minced pork stuffing.
The tasty minced pork stuffing is outstanding: well-seasoned, with bouncy texture that strikes a pleasing balance between coarse and fine; no wonder the meat items tend to sell out faster.
By comparison, the fish paste items are more processed, though still fresh and of good quality. Most of the items available are fried (from $0.40 per piece), so on the whole, the food tends to be on the greasy side. The soup and chilli are decent but not spectacular.
Hakka Yong Tau Foo | Address: Blk 20 Ghim Moh Road, #01-14 Ghim Moh Food Centre | Opening hours: Tue-Sun 8.45am-2pm
Golden Mile Special Yong Tau Foo
At Golden Mile Special Yong Tau Foo, they mince their own fish paste on the premises daily. There is a limited variety of stuffed items that customers can choose from. Because most of the items are boiled or steamed (minimum 8 pieces, from $0.30 per piece), the yong tau foo here feels lighter.
The fish paste has a homely quality, but is pleasantly smooth without that processed texture. Unfortunately, the stuffing is skimpy in quantity. To be fair, the food is competitively priced, but we’d gladly pay more for a more satisfying experience.
On the upside, we rather enjoyed the soup although it tasted bland at first. It possesses a subtle natural sweetness that gradually grows on you.
Golden Mile Special Yong Tau Foo | Address: 505 Beach Road, #B1-44 Golden Mile Food Centre | Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11am-3pm