Tahô is a Philippine snack food made of fresh soft/silken tofu, arnibal (brown sugar syrup), and sago "pearls" (similar to tapioca pearls). This staple comfort food is a signature sweet and can be found all over the country.
The history of taho is debatable, but early records suggest it may trace its origin to China. Prior to the Spanish Occupation, Chinese were common traders with Filipinos, thus influencing Philippine cuisine. As douhua is fairly similar in consistency to the taho base, it is thought that early Filipinos adopted, sweetened and used it to create this delicacy.
Processing and preparation
Most taho vendors prepare their goods before dawn. The main ingredient, fresh soft/silken tofu is processed to a consistency that is very similar to a very fine custard. Brown sugar is then heated and caramelized to create a viscous amber-colored syrup called arnibal. Sago "pearls," purchased from the local market or palengkê, are boiled to a gummy consistency until they are a transluscent white.
The Magtataho or taho vendors are a common sight in the Philippines. They are typically male and carry two large aluminum buckets that hang from each end of a long wooden plank or yoke. These buckets are made to fit the needs of a typical magtataho. One of the buckets has a hinged lid in the center and carries nothing but the tofu base, which comprises the bulk of the dessert; the other has a hinged lid that divides the bucket diagonally into two compartments, with one side containing the arnibal and the other containing sago "pearls". Often, this bucket also has another smaller compartment near the lid for keeping change. This contraption is carried on the shoulders, not unlike a yoke, as the vendors ply their route.
Taho vendors peddle their product in a trademark manner, calling its name in a full, rising inflection as they walk at a leisurely pace either along the sidewalk or, in rural communities, in the middle of the road. As most magtataho keep a habitual route, it is not uncommon for vendors to call out "Tahoooooô!" to attract a customer's attention. Though vendors are most likely to ply their routes early in the morning, it is not uncommon for a magtataho to be spotted in the late afternoon or the evening as well. This is particularly common in the heart of Manila, most particularly by Manila Bay.
Most magtataho carry plastic cups for their product, often in two sizes (though vendors in residential communities tend to use their customers' cups and price their product accordingly). Using a wide, shallow metal "sandok" or scoop, they skim the surface of the bean curd and toss out any excess water, subsequently scooping the bean curd itself into a cup. Then, using a long thin metal ladle, they scoop sago "pearls" and arnibal into the cup, loosely mixing it in.
Taho is enjoyed either with a spoon or by simply "drinking" it from the cup. Though traditionally served warm, cold varieties exist in supermarkets and in food stalls in cafeterias which have the bean curd in a solid, unbroken state. These pre-packed cups tend to contain a firmer tofu which need to be broken up and is sold either with a plastic spoon or a wooden popsicle stick.
Due to the increase in popularity of taho over the years, its traditional form may also be found in restaurants or at receptions with a native food theme. A nationwide chain, "Uncle Finn's Soya" is also known for setting up kiosks in mall openings or food courts, thus making the sweet treat available all day.
- "How to make Taho". Retrieved 2007-05-05.