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Different Names Same Good Food / Anyone for a Yong Tau Fu?

Different Names Same Good Food / Anyone for a Yong Tau Fu?

In Malaysia and Singapore, the popular noodle soup is known as “Yong Tau Fu”. In Thailand, it goes by the name “Yen Ta Fo”. Different names for the same good food!

A mix of crispy fries is readied for a Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu.

Originally a part of traditional Hakka cuisine, the scrumptious noodle soup is enjoyed by many people across peninsular Southeast Asia. Particularly in Malaysia, it has pride of place among top 100 dishes with a national heritage status.

 Yong Tau Fu has been among many big hits on the menu for hundreds of years. Its various recipes were brought in by the Hakka people, one of major groups who migrated into the Region from southeastern China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu with a side dish of crispy fried condiments. They can be added to soups or eaten with dipping sauces.

As its name implies, the recipe is made of tofu stuffed with ground pork and then deep-fried to give it a distinctive crispy flavor. It is the perfect match for a bowl of soup, good with dipping sauces, and makes a delicious accompaniment for noodle. Nowadays near-original versions of Yong Tau Fu can still be found everywhere in Malaysia.

Meantime, the Thais like their Yen Ta Fo slightly different from the original. They treat it as a noodle dish that comes either with or without deep-fried tofu. Instead, the Thai recipe features fish balls, pleasantly crisp calamari, pig’s blood cakes, and tender shoots and leaves of water spinach. Some Yen Ta Fo joints offer pork-stuffed tofu, while others may do without it entirely.

Known as Yen Ta Fo, the Thai noodle meal with its signature pink soup is served with pig’s blood cakes and tender shoots and leaves of water spinach.
Hakka noodle, as the Thais call it, is a variation of the Yen Ta Fo recipe.

The Thai version is distinguished by the signature pink soup that gets its color from fermented red bean curd. The Thais also like their Yen Ta Fo with a variety of condiments, including taro fries, shrimp balls, jellyfish, and wood ear, aka black fungus. Some like their Yen Ta Fo the Thai way in spicy chili soups. A lot of people confuse Yen Ta Fo with a similar recipe without the pink soup. Although made with the same ingredients, the latter is known as “Kuaytaew Khae”, literally Hakka noodle.

Ingredient of Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu
Be spoilt for choice! There’s nothing like a full-course Yong Tau Fu served Malaysian-style.

Traditionally, a Malaysian-style Yong Tau Fu begins with first-course meals consisting of a mix of crispy fries, such as tofu, purple eggplant, stuffed meals, and sweet pepper, aka bell pepper. It’s hard to beat a good dipping sauce to start with. Then it’s time to eat them with a soup and add noodle to complement a great meal. Yong Tau Fu is ranked among Malaysia’s top 100 dishes with a national heritage status, along with other big hits such as Nasi Lemak (a rice dish cooked in coconut milk with anchovies and hot sauces), Nasi Ayam (chicken rice), and Ketupat (rice dumpling in palm leaf pouch).

Queueing for a Yong Tau Fu in Singapore. If you’re patient, it will get to your turn.
(Left) A Singapore-style Yong Tau Fu comes in a noodle soup. (Right) Crispy fried anchovies, locally known as “Ikan Bilis”, add flavor to a Yong Tau Fu meal.

In Singapore, where Yong Tau Fu is a culinary success story, rice vermicelli is served on a plate along with a bowl of spicy soup called Laksa. It is recommended to try this with Chee Cheong Fun, a rice noodle roll that comes in either dry or wet versions. There are plenty of Yong Tau Fu joints to be found. The price is reasonable, but keep in mind the line is rather long. If you are patient, it will get to your turn. Enjoy your meal! 


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Most Inexpensive Michelin-starred Restaurant Opens Thailand Branch

Most Inexpensive Michelin-starred Restaurant Opens Thailand Branch

In a new challenge for the celebrated “hero of street food,” today Singapore’s Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, the cheapest restaurant in the world to achieve a starred Michelin rating, is opening a Thailand branch in the Asoke area of Bangkok.

/// Thailand / Singapore ///
Story: Samutcha Viraporn /// Photography: Sitthisak Namkham


Liao Fan Hon Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle in Chinatown Food Complex

From the outside, Singapore’s Chinatown Food Complex doesn’t look like anything special; but in 2016 its own “Hawker Chan,” a food stall specializing in Singapore-style chicken rice, brought a lot of buzz to the gourmet world by receiving a Michelin star, immediately becoming the cheapest  Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Already popular, the shop experienced such an increase in customer volume that chef/owner Chan Hon Meng decided to expand into a second branch. This is now tucked away on Smith Street, an alley across from the food center, under the name “Liao Fan Hon Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle.” Branch number three quickly followed in the form of an air-conditioned restaurant on Teng Street, just outside the Chinatown Food Complex. Meals there are a bit more expensive: instead of 2 Singapore dollars per plate, chicken rice is priced at 3.8 dollars.

Liao Fan Hon Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle on Smith street
Liao Fan Hon Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle on Smith street

  After a lifetime of hard and conscientious work, chef/owner Chan Hong Meng himself is now known as “the hero of street food” in Singapore. His shop’s popularity has grown so much that customers have to wait in a long line that snakes all around the food center.

Hawker Chan in Bangkok / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn
Hawker Chan in Bangkok / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn

The added branches helped to accommodate customer volume, but it wasn’t long at all before the Hawker Chan name went international. Now the Terminal 21 trade center in Thailand hosts the latest branch, an eatery with the slogan “World’s First Michelin-starred Street Food Stall” still featuring the same basic menu as the Singapore shops: chicken with rice or egg noodles, chicken with char siu, crispy pork, and pork ribs.


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