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Mar 26, 2024

By Michelle Tchea

The only thing better than a good recipe? When something’s so easy that you don’t even need one. Welcome to It’s That Simple, a column where we talk you through the dishes and drinks you can make with your eyes closed.

There are a hundred ways you can keep cool during the dog days of summer: eat ice cream or chilled noodles, or sip on your favorite frozen boozy drink, perhaps. I spent my childhood eating sweet ginger tofu, dou-fu hua (豆腐花), or douhua, during the hottest days of the year. It’s the easiest dessert I know.

When I was growing up in Australia, my mom would either cut a giant wedge of watermelon, slice a cheek of sun-ripened mango, or my favorite, whip up a bowl of sweet ginger tofu to cool down her red-faced daughter after school. Similar to the taste and texture of caramel flan, this silky, jiggly dessert is served in a glowing golden syrup made of ginger and molasses.

Across Asia there are other riffs off this popular dessert that add chewy boba pearls, sweetened beans, or bullet-shaped noodles made of glutinous rice flour. In Taiwan, my memory of douhua was eating in a street market with my mom sitting beside me, fanning herself with a napkin, the two of us relying on the tofu dessert to soothe us. It provided relief from the sticky Taiwanese weather, albeit for a short while.

Although it has been many years since visiting Taiwan with my mom, I have continued to eat douhua at home because it is such a simple recipe. The traditional version starts with fresh soy milk and curdles it with fresh ginger, yielding a custardy tofu-like pudding. To keep it simple, I turn to silken tofu instead.

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water, 3–5 slices of ginger, and 1 cup dark brown sugar (or 1 stick brown rock sugar as my mom would use) to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. You can boil the sugar syrup for a longer time if you want a stickier sauce, but I prefer mine more liquid-y. Transfer to a jar and chill the syrup before serving.

Open a packet of your favorite silken tofu (my go-to is House extra-soft tofu). Drain the tofu and scoop as much as you’d like into a bowl using a large spoon. Pour your chilled ginger syrup over the tofu—either a drizzle or a generous douse if you prefer. You can embellish with sago pearls, boba balls, and sweet red bean paste, too, but the dessert is gorgeous on its own.

2 cups water3–5 slices of ginger1 cup dark brown sugar1 stickbrown rock sugar