Undying: Taho-A A +A
Friday, January 25, 2013
“WITH or without it?,” the snack vendor downtown asks a customer whether or not she likes an added condiment with her taho.
“Yes please,” she replies, as the seller takes a can of condensed milk, with two punctured holes about five millimeters small at opposite ends atop the lid, and pours a hearty amount of sweetening over the snack served in a plastic, eight ounce cup.
“It’s 2013. We (vendors) just started doing this,” shared the man claiming that condensed milk is the cheaper way to go about flavoring.
It’s that street treat Filipinos have all tried at least once in their lives. Well, pre-condensed milk-era wise, it’s hard to spot someone who isn’t a fan of a hot cup of taho.
Backtrack a few decades ago, the taho vendor would compete with the morning rooster in waking up boys and girls snuggly tucked in their beds. “Tahooooo,” the vendor would shout passing by residential areas in the city trying to attract customers. But these days, it’s not uncommon to see vendors work the streets until dinner time.
Taho for the record is a Filipino snack that is made of fresh soft tofu, mixed with syrup consisting a mixture of brown sugar and vanilla, and then topped with pearl sago.
Cebuano Rolly Endrina, 32, has been selling taho for 10 years (with condensed milk— about a month). He claims that selling taho is his only livelihood and has been, after all these years, sufficient enough. “I have a wife and three kids. Thank God I’m able to pay rent for our house, and I’m also able to provide allowance for my children,” the Boljoon native shares during a simple chat.
For Rolly, life daily starts around 4 a.m., when he gets his stock of taho from a supplier down south of Cebu City. Together with about 80 more taho vendors, they make their way into the streets, taking whatever route each of them have already been comfortable with, and by 5 a.m. they’re probably going to get orders from their first customer.
“I start as early as five in the morning, and my stock runs out by lunchtime. I then go back for a second serving, and get off selling again until nine in the evening.”
Usually, taho vendors like Rolly carry two large aluminum buckets that hang from each end of a yoke. The bigger bucket is filled with the soft tofu, while the other smaller bucket contains the syrup and pearls.
According to him, he carries an average of 35 kilos a day, with nothing but a cotton shirt breaking the weight between the yoke and his shoulders.
It’s just 15 kilos short of carrying a sack of rice. But the great thing about selling taho in this country is that the burden lessens by the hour, thanks to the country’s collective sweet tooth.
In the decade the Rolly has been selling taho, he can attest to the fact that not even the emergence of the internet, or the sprouting of multiple cupcakes stores or milk tea shops in the city, have dampened the Cebuanos craving for taho. The clamor for the snack has never declined, and at the least, has been pretty steady. Rolly even shares how tourists now are attracted likewise to the snack; say Koreans. “They give me the thumbs up sign after a sip.”
Popular all-over the country, the taho, simple as it seems, bears a huge significance to the Filipinos’ knack for timeless classics. So okay, this one might be a concept recipe borrowed from the Chinese; but condensed milk?
Taho, it’s more fun in the Philippines.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2013.