Last year, a new craze has set Singaporeans queuing for hours. The new obsession is Soya beancurd dessert – a simple, custard pudding that is sweet, light and your best friend during a hot day (which is almost every other day in Singapore) – a bowl for just $1.50. One of the most famous is Lao Ban Soya Beancurd, which has gotten so popular that it expanded out of their first Old Airport Road stall and spawned several competitors. It is not uncommon to see happy people walking out of the hawker centre with tall bags, holding not less than 5 bowls each, looking as if they’ve won the lottery or just completed their Honours Thesis at NUS.
With more competitors and the novelty fading, Lao Ban’s stalls do not draw queues as crazy-long as before – there are still queues during peak periods though. Also, there is an increasing number of people making their own at home.
The dessert is actually very easy to create. It only takes you about 15-20 minutes. A recipe that is very close to Lao Ban has been posted online in December 2011. I’ve been making these for months, because I don’t want to travel to Old Airport Road and queue, and because I found Lao Ban’s desserts to be way too sweet. I’ve shared the recipe with friends – some succeeded, some failed – making Soybean agar agar, Soybean cakes and other Soybean flavoured things that do not resemble Lao Ban’s pudding. Some just REFUSE to try because “it’s complicated”. So I’ve decided to write this entry to show how easy it actually is.
Why should you make your own Soya Beancurd?
- No need to queue anymore. (YES!)
- You’ll definitely save money on the long run.
- You can alter the recipe to your liking. Less sugar, or go nuts with experimental “new flavours”.
- You can recycle those plastic containers. Most people throw it away after eating! Do your part for the environment.
- The taste is very similar but not 1:1 to Lao Ban. See first point below.
What this recipe won’t recreate?
- The enigmatic, crusty-yet-soft, sometimes-wrinkly skin layer at the top. Some people love it, some hate it. The home-made version will be consistently smooth.
- The agonizing long wait at the Soybean dessert stalls
Things you need
- A small pot or saucepan (big enough to cook a bowl of noodles for one person)
- Weighing scale (accuracy of 1g, if possible)
- A fine sieve/strainer with handle
- Whisk (You can also use chopsticks or spatula, but a whisk is easier/faster)
- Measurement cup (up to at least 700ml)
- Another cup that’s about the same as the measurement cup, preferably with beak
- Plastic bowl containers (Lao Ban or others)
Optional: A “magic” oil sieve (for ultra-smooth tofu quality)
This recipe is based on the one shared by hardwarezone user chanzhf. I’ve made some small changes. This recipe will make 3 bowls, using the Lao Ban containers.
60g Polleney Soybean Powder
Sold in large packets, so you’ll need to measure every time you cook. $5.90 at NTUC (500g package)
30g Unisoy Instant Organic Soya Milk Powder
Conveniently in sachets. Just use one sachet each time. $7.20 at NTUC (15 sachets)
Use granular or icing sugar. 20g is recommended as it is not too sweet, but you can go up to 30-35g if you want a sweeter dessert, or match the sweetness of Lao Ban’s dessert. You can also skip the sugar altogether if you prefer.
30g Nestle CoffeeMate
Pretty standard item found in any supermarket. Big packet, so you’ll need to measure.
13g RED MAN Instant Jelly Powder
The exact item is called Instant Jelly Powder. Do not substitute with gelatin, agar agar, Konnyaku Jelly or other dubiously-named powder.
This is available in 200g (S$4.90) and 1kg (S$18) quantities. Easiest place to find is at Phoon Huat stores; or you can try your luck at some large supermarkets (Giant Hypermart at Tampines).
[Edit]: My friend Dwight suggests using Bake King’s Instant Jelly Powder, if you can’t find Red Man’s stock at Phoon Huat.
Kevin left a few helpful comments, suggesting to add Vanilla (from pods) for a fragrant aftertaste. Please leave a comment if you have tried this!
All ingredients are Halal.
You can also use soybean milk (in cartons), but the taste will not resemble Lao Ban’s dessert. If wish to do it anyway, measure 700ml of the soybean milk and heat it up. Continue from Step 1d – just simmer the soybean milk.
Lao Ban-style Soya Beancurd: Step by Step guide
If it’s your first time doing any form of cooking, I’d recommend measuring all the ingredients first and put them in saucers or small bowls.
Also, throughout the entire process, never let the mixture boil; just simmer. If it starts to boil, turn off the fire immediately.
While you must not let the mixture boil, you should not leave it to cool until they’re in the plastic containers. Especially after you’ve added the jelly powder – the mixture will start to coagulate as it cools.
1. Prepare the Soybean Milk Base
1a) Measure 60g of Polleney Soybean Powder and open one sachet of Unisoy’s Soya milk powder.
1b) Pour everything into the saucepan/pot.
1c) Measure 700ml of water and pour into the pot.
1d) Place the pot on the stove and start the fire. Use low heat.
1e) Whisk the mixture well to make Soybean milk. You’d want to break up the globs of powder floating around. Scrape the bottom of the pot to make sure nothing gets stuck on the surface. Don’t worry about the growing mass of bubbles. Just make sure that the powder mix is fully dissolved before you move on. Also, DO NOT BOIL the mixture. If it is getting too hot and you see the mixture leaving brown marks in the pot, turn off the fire for a while.
2. Add in sugar and coffeemate
2) Now that you have a nice warm Soya bean milk in the pot, simply add in 20g of sugar and 30g of CoffeeMate. Magically, most bubbles will disappear. Keep whisking, making sure you have a smooth mixture going on and everything is dissolved. From here, you want to keep the mixture as hot as possible without boiling. You should see (or feel) steam emanating from the mix. Stir for another minute and move to the next step.
3. Add the Instant Jelly powder
3) This is the tricky step, because you need to add the instant jelly powder only when the mixture is very hot. Right after you add it in, continue to stir quickly (but not whisk) for a minute. The trick is to make sure that the mixture is well-mixed AND very hot, so that it would not coagulate. When you’re ready, turn off the fire and prepare your sieve/strainer and a large cup to pour the mixture into.
4. Sieve the mixture
4a) Pour the mixture slowly into a cup (i.e. the measuring cup), through a fine sieve. The mixture should still very hot, so do be careful.
4b) If you have the “Magic Oil Sieve”, you can do a second round of filtering. You will need to pour it even slower because the flow is greatly reduced. DO NOT use a Magic Oil Sieve unless the mixture has been sieved before, otherwise the flow will become increasingly slow and the mixture will start to cool down and coagulate.
4c) There will be residual bubbles. Wash the sieve, then use it to scoop the bubbles out. The Magic Oil Sieve works wonders here.
5. Pour into containers
5a) Finally, you can pour the mixture into the bowls. Do it slowly and you won’t have any bubbles.
5b) Viola! Let it cool for a while, then put them in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
There you have it. Your very own Lao Ban-style Soya Beancurd. If you feel that it is not sweet enough, increase the amount of sugar to 30g. Now then, it isn’t very difficult, is it? And 15 minutes is a lot less than the amount of time you’ll need to wait for your turn. But of course, do support the stalls from time to time (and get new containers!)
Is it possible to make more than 3 bowls at a go? Yes, but it is more difficult to ensure that the mixture has the right consistency, and also makes controlling the heat and the filtering steps more challenging. I’d recommend just sticking to 3 bowls in a batch. Just wash up and start over.