Different from Hà Nội’s famous Mơ tofu, soya curds from Kênh in Thái Bình are well known far and wide for being thin, just 0.5 cm, and has a buttery and fragrant taste.
“We call it Kênh tofu, locally known as đậu Kênh. It can be fried to dip in shrimp paste with lemon, wrap minced pork and ketchup or as an attractive item in hotpot, ” said Hoàng Thị Hoan, 55, adding that the dish is not only nutritious but also very good for digestion.
“The job has been existing in our hamlet for a hundred years. In the past, it sold well during rice harvest time, but now we have received orders to sell it year-round,” Hoan said.
Hoan said she has been doing the job for almost 40 years, since she was a young girl. The hand-made job requires manual work from all family members but now helped by a machine.
“We don’t have to work as hard as in the past. The machine helps us to make more tofu to meet increasing demands.”
“Thanks to the job we have a stable monthly income of VNĐ8-10 million,” Hoan said. She has been teaching her children and grandchildren how to make the tofu so the secret recipe is not lost.
The key is how sour to make the dish; too sour and the tofu will not be condensed. Too sweet, the tofu will become solid, she said.
“Much more important is that we try to preserve this traditional occupation handed down from our ancestors,” she said, confirming that locals are proud of the tofu which had been used in the past as a speciality to offer to the kings.
Customers impressed by Kênh tofu
Nguyễn Thị Mai, a native of Kênh, now lives in Hà Nội’s Hoàng Mai District. One day she invited her friends to her house to enjoy Kênh tofu dipped in shrimp past with lemon and chilli. The dish is often eaten with fresh herbs and bún lá (leaf vermicelli). It is one of the traditional renowned dishes of Hanoians in the capital.
“My friends so were surprised to see the tofu which is as thin as several leaves arranged together. That catches their eyes so much,” Mai told Việt Nam News.
They competed with each other to try the first fried tofu and shouted loudly that they felt true quality tofu, its delicious, fragrant and butter taste from soybean.
“The dish really conquered us for its special form, pure and flavour. It is the right and good dish for my diet,” one of the friends said.
“This small Kênh tofu party so impressed my friends that they asked me to return to my hamlet to order the items to resell to them,” Mai said, noting that since then she often sells up to 100kg of such tofu for her friends and her neighbours, weekly.
Mai’s neighbour Đặng Thu Hoài said she is addicted to đậu Kênh so she often buys several kilos with a price from VNĐ30,000-35,000/kg to preserve it in the refrigerator.
“The tofu can be kept for 3-4 days without being soured compared with other soya curds I had bought so far.”
Hoan’s neighbour Trần Thị Sành said her family processes 600-700 kg of soya bean per day to make tofu. Three-quarters of it are transported to Hà Nội, Hải Phòng and Quảng Ninh where “our regular customers and restaurants have ordered it in advanced.”
There is 60 per cent of total hamlet households doing the job, earning an average income of VNĐ10 million per month. Several big producers earn more with VNĐ 20-30 million/month, according to Sành. — VNS