Filipino Core: The History of Taho

Made of tofu, syrup of brown sugar, and sago pearls, a Filipino street food commonly known as “Taho” has been everyone’s favorite since time immemorial. We see vendors roaming around the streets under the scorching heat of the sun, run into them to excitedly hand our ten peso coin and a mug. Aside from being cheap, it also satisfies the taste buds, making it all okay as a snack. It can also be served during breakfast, as it is prepared by the vendors during the dawn.


The Anatomy of a Taho:

The base is made of fresh silken tofu, a white soft substance that has the same texture with a very fine panna cotta. Above this tofu or soybean custard is then poured with “arnibal”, the term used for the caramelized syrup brown sugar which is sometimes flavored with vanilla. On the topmost part is a spoonful of gummy sago pearls.


Different from a lot of our Philippine local delicacies, taho is typically associated as a Chinese innovation. How it came to be, as all legends do, vary depending on who you ask. According to legend, tofu started in the Han Dynasty where it was the result of a failure of conjuring immortality pills through a mixture of soybeans and bamboo piths. The gel-like form of tofu is caused by the high calcium content of raw salt in the mixture.


However, the more realistic story on the invention of tofu was that a cook accidentally mixed a handful of salt to a slurry of boiled, ground soybeans while in the midst of a preparation for a savory soy milk soup. This accounts for the Chinese and Mongolian for discovering the process and soon applying the technique on their own cuisine.


Soon, tofu became an important protein source for vegetarians. After being eaten with other different ingredients and being into different savory dishes, the Chinese then discovered adding ginger, almond syrup, and other toppings to it such as nuts and beans. They soon passed this to the Malays who later settled in the Philippines and became natives of the land.


The word “taho” came from the Malay word “tauhue” or “tofu pudding”. The Filipinos also experimented of different dishes and recipes until they came up with the sweeter, less medicinal taho with arnibal and sago.