NYC’s Best Tofu Pudding – Fong On vs 46 Mott

Battle of the tofu fa pudding (豆腐花).

Our experience

Last month, we noted that we are making it our mission to try to seek out lesser known dessert spots in NYC.  Today, we are comparing tofu fa pudding (豆腐花) from two under-the-radar, hole-in-the-wall specialist shops in Chinatown.  

The first store we visited for tofu fa was Fong On.  Once situated in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown and operating since the 1930s, Fong On used to be the only tofu specialist in NYC.  Today, it is located on the border between Chinatown and the Lower East Side, in a space that looks rather millennial-friendly, all shiny steel and white tiling.  Fong On offers tofu fa plain and simple, with a choice of three syrups (ginger, almond or brown sugar), or similar to a frozen yogurt store, there are customizable bowls of tofu fa with “toppings.”  We tried two of the combination bowls, and found the version with grass jelly, taro balls and red bean to be more savoury than the bowl with bubble tea pearls, ai-yu and rainbow jelly.   The former would be ideal for winter, and the latter, being of lighter textures, for summer.  As for the tofu itself, it’s as silky as it should be, and ultra-soft, tending to break easily.  Aside from tofu fa, Fong On also sells savoury northern Chinese-style tofu (the first time we have seen this out of Beijing!), grass jelly, steamed rice cakes of several different flavours (white sugar, brown sugar, ginger, matcha), and bottles of soy milk and herbal tea.

The second store we visited was 46 Mott, which you may recall from our recent round-up review of NYC’s Best Chinese Bakery Desserts.  46 Mott is located precisely where Fong On used to be, before the latter moved to the Lower East Side around 2017-2018.  We accidentally came across 46 Mott one blisteringly cold winter day a few months ago.  Since then, it has quickly become our go-to quick-stop grocer for meaty char siew baos, hearty zongzi dumplings, and fresh rice noodles (which are incredibly difficult to source in NYC!).  By contrast to Fong On’s customizable options, 46 Mott’s tofu fa is only available as a plain version.  It is as silky as Fong On’s, but does not break as easily.  Perhaps, we love it just a bit more because the accompanying ginger syrup is more pronounced.

Here’s a quick comparison of the two tofu fa — let us know which is your favourite!

 

46 Mott’s Tofu Pudding

Fong On’s Tofu Pudding 

Price point

Approx USD $5

Approx USD $4-6 (for straight-up) or $6-7 (with toppings), and different sizes available

Appearance

Only available as straight-up tofu

Available as straight-up tofu, or combined with toppings, such as taro balls, grass jelly, red bean, bubble tea pearls, ai-yu jelly etc

Tofu texture

Silky

Silky

Ginger syrup

Ginger syrup is more pronounced

Ginger syrup is sweeter


Dessert adventure checklist

  1. ☑ Dessert destination: 
    • Fong On, 81 Division Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan.
    • 46 Mott, 46 Mott Street, Chinatown, Manhattan.
  2. ☑ Budget: $ (USD $4-7).
  3. ☑ Sweet irresistibles: Traditional Chinese dessert.
  4. ☑ Must-eat: Tofu fa pudding.
  5. ☑ The short and sweet story: Battle of the tofu fa pudding

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