Every June 12, the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day. As a tribute, I decided to make one of the treats I enjoyed as a kid and still, as an adult- Taho. I vividly remember sitting by the front door on early Saturday mornings, clutching 5 pesos in one hand and an empty cup in the other anxiously waiting for the Taho Man (Magtatahô/taho vendor) to pass by. There’s no bell or music to signal his arrival but only a beckon “ta-hooooo!!!” that you can hear from a couple blocks away. Just imagine my delight as he emerges from that corner, with two huge silver canisters dangling on either side only suspended from a bamboo resting on his tired but still strong shoulders as he nears my grandma’s house. Then a little little voice from behind the screen door lets out “taho!” And Mr. Magtataho would come to our front door and dispense the amount he thinks is right for 5 pesos.
Taho is a Filipino snack that is made of processed tofu. There was this one kid’s show back home that featured how to make this but I was too young to pay attention to what they were doing. There was a lot of stirring with a huge stick from what I remember. Anyway, it’s soft tofu topped with arnibal (caramelized brown sugar) and sago (tapioca pearls). So the Taho Man would peddle 2 buckets, one containing the soft tofu and the other, arnibal and sago. There’s another compartment in the 2nd bucket and that is where the Magtataho puts his earnings. I loved watching the Magtataho scoop the tofu from its bucket flat with a spatula. He would do it with much speed and finesse. It made me want to be a magtataho at one point in my childhood. After he fills my cup with the tofu, I would immediately request “Manong, padagdag ng arnibal” (extra caramel, sir) to which he would gladly oblige. I would ask again if I think my taho is a little bland. Of course, being a kid, I wanted my taho drowning in sugar. I would also ask for extra sago.
I have missed a lot of the Taho Man as I grew older. I wonder if he missed me, too. Being a teenager, it became harder to rise early on weekends. Sometimes, my grandfather would be nice enough to buy me a cup but it’s not as much fun as watching my favorite Taho man slide the jiggly tofu into my cup. And my grandfather never requests for extra arnibal and sago so my taho would be pale. And now, I’m here in the US. Taho is even harder to come by. In New Jersey where there’s a Filipino supermart, they would jack the price up because they know how Filipinos love it and would pay anything just to enjoy it again. Until I stumbled upon a grade school classmate’s Facebook. She posted a cup of Taho and asked her where she got it from. She said she made it. Made it? I don’t know if I love it that much to churn and cook soy to turn into a tofu. But she said it was really simple and it really is!
- Soft or silken tofu
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup tapioca pearls
- In a small sauce pan, mix brown sugar and water together and bring to boil. Keep stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it simmer for another couple of minutes and set aside. This is your arnibal.
- Prepare tapioca pearls according to package instructions and set aside.
- Pour soft tofu into a cup or bowl and warm in the microwave. Top with “arnibal” and “sago.” Enjoy!