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Burmese tofu (Burmese: တိုဖူး; IPA: [tòpʰú] or [tòhú]) is a food of Shan origin and is different from Chinese tofu in that it is not made from soy milk and not set with a coagulant. Shan tofu is produced in a similar fashion to polenta, with its primary ingredient being water and flour ground from yellow split peas and the Burmese version from chickpea flour, also known as besan flour. The flour is mixed with water, turmeric, and a little salt and heated, stirring constantly, until it reaches a creamy consistency. It is then transferred into a tray and allowed to set. It is matte yellow in colour, jelly-like but firm in consistency, and does not crumble when cut or sliced. It may be eaten fresh as a salad or deep fried. It may also be sliced and dried to make crackers for deep frying.
Varieties and etymology
- Pè bya (ပဲပြား, literally pressed peas) refers to Chinese tofu and is translated into 'beancurd' in English in Myanmar. Stinky tofu or the fermented form of tofu, however, is called si to hpu, probably a version of the Chinese word chòu dòufu.
- Won ta hpo is the yellow form of tofu made from yellow split peas or zadaw bè in Shan State.
- To hpu gyauk or dried tofu is yellow tofu sliced into a long thin rectangular form and dried in the sun. They are similar to fish or prawn crackers and sold in bundles.
- To hpu made from chickpea (kala bè) flour or pè hmont is the common version in mainland Burma. It has the same yellow colour and taste but slightly firmer than Shan tofu.
- Hsan ta hpo is still mainly confined to Shan regions, made from rice flour called hsan hmont or mont hmont, and is white in colour. It has the same consistency but slightly different in taste. It is as popular as the yellow form as a salad.
There is no /f/ (as in "French") in the Burmese language; hence, /pʰ/ (as in the word "pot") is used in to hpu, the Burmese version of "tofu".
- To hpu gyaw is yellow tofu cut into rectangular shapes, scored in the middle, and deep fried. Tofu fritters may be eaten with a spicy sour dip, or cut and made into a salad. They are crispy outside and soft inside.
- Hnapyan gyaw is so called because the fritters are "twice fried" after the tofu is cut into triangular shapes. It is the traditional form in the Shan States.
- To hpu gyauk kyaw or deep fried tofu crackers, like hnapyan gyaw, are usually served with htamin gyin (lit. "sour rice" balls kneaded together with tomato and fish or potato), another popular Shan dish.
Fried tofu goes very well with kau hnyin baung (glutinous rice) as a breakfast option, and also with mohinga (rice vermicelli in fish soup) or rice noodles called hsan hkauk swè, especially Shan hkauk swè. Green tea is the preferred traditional drink to go with all these in Burma.
- To hpu thouk or tofu salad with either to hpu or hsan ta hpo is very popular as a snack or a meal in itself whereas fried tofu on its own is considered a snack. Both may form part of a meal where all the dishes are customarily shared at the same time. Fresh tofu, cut into small rectangular slices, constitutes the main ingredient of the salad, dressed and garnished with peanut oil, dark soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted crushed dried chilli, crushed garlic, crushed roasted peanuts, crisp-fried onions, and coriander.
- To hpu gyaw thouk refers to tofu fritters cut up and served as a salad as above.
- To hpu nway (warm tofu) or to hpu byaw (soft tofu) is the soft creamy tofu served hot before it sets, usually as a salad dressed and garnished the same way. It may be combined in the same dish with tofu fritters or rice noodles.
- To hpu gyet - Sliced yellow tofu may also be curried with fresh tomatoes, onions and garlic, cooked in peanut oil and fish sauce, and garnished with coriander and green chilli. It makes a good pescatarian dish to go with rice, but also popular among the poor if meat or poultry is unaffordable.
- Also called gram flour, besan flour is made from chana dal (also called kala chana or Bengal gram), a type of small, dark-colored chickpea also used in Indian cuisine).
Hsan ta hpo (rice tofu) salad from the Shan States is as popular as the yellow Burmese tofu salad.
Shan hkauk swè (Shan rice noodles) with to hpu gyaw (tofu fritters) served with monnyingyin (pickled mustard greens) on the side
To hpu thouk (Burmese tofu salad) hawker at Kuthodaw Pagoda, Mandalay