Date Traveled, February 2013
Kung Wo Dau Bun Chong, or Kung Wo Beancurd shop, is a century old establishment in the Sham Shui Po area of Kowloon. They serve only dishes made of tofu and are famous for it all over Hong Kong and beyond. Their signature dish is the Dau Fu Fa, an extremely soft tofu with a smooth and silky texture.
Kung Wo is an institution in Hong Kong and it remains an extremely popular destination for local tofu snacks today as it has been for decades. I hadn't heard of this place or its history until my partner's dad recommended this to us before our trip to Hong Kong and told us he used to live next door to the shop over 40 years ago before immigrating to the United States. It is located at 118 Pei Ho street, a particularly busy spot as it is also the location of an evening outdoor market. Walking around the market incidentally makes for an interesting activity to do after a meal at Kung Wo if you go there in the afternoon or evening but you get to skip the chaos if you go in the morning, whichever you are in the mood for. You do need to be in the mood for tofu when you come here. It can be hard to find with all the stalls but let your nose guide you along with its prominent wide and open main store front. When we got there the visible tables were all full and we expected to have to wait for a spot but to our surprise the place is actually a much bigger warren of little isolated rooms in the back alleys behind the main building.
Kung Wo's crowded storefront on Pei Ho street
The back alley dining rooms
The tofu isprepared in areas like this
We were guided through the back to one of the many little rooms past areas where we could see tofu being prepared. This was a surreal experience and I felt like I was being taken by some triad gang to see some precious contraband in a secret hideout. We were seated in a tiny room with two tables and had a middle aged lady sharing our table who eyed the two of us with undisguised curiosity. I am fairly certain foreigners are not too common there and American Chinese and half Indian-half Sri Lankan couples are even less frequent there :-). She turned out to be quite friendly and helpful. She struck up a conversation with my partner and first asked if we were part of some guided tour and when my partner replied in the negative, she asked with an expression that required no translation, "how in the world did you find this place!?", ha ha. She later helped us order additional dishes which we hadn't planned on eating here and hence did not learn the names to be able to order them. She even graciously offered to take pictures of the two of us together. Meeting kind strangers while traveling always leaves you with a much more memorable experience.
The first dish we ordered and the one we had come all the way with the intention of trying was Kung Wo Bun Dau Chong's famous, dau fu fa.
Dau fu fa is an old Chinese dish, believed to have been created centuries ago. Versions of the dish exist in many forms across several different Chinese cuisines and regions. It is extremely soft and is typically eaten in a bowl like a soup because of its nature and is commonly translated into English as tofu pudding because of how it looks. It is frequently served as a dessert and my first tasting of dau fu fa was in New York where it is commonly served mixed with honey to sweeten it. At Kung Wo, it is serves either warm or cold but without any additional ingredients to sweeten it. The idea is to sparingly add the brown sugar available at all the tables to your tofu till it reaches a level of sweetness you require. Ours were served warm and you could just eat it plain, that's how good and smooth it was. I did like it sweet with the brown sugar though but it felt a bit wrong to ruin that texture by adding the sugar to it at first, but it congeals nicely with the tofu giving it a layer with an interesting hue. The helpful lady who we were sharing the table with suggested that having come all the way here we might as try their dau fu pok as well, fried variants of tofu dishes, which she helped us order as I mentioned earlier.
Kung Wo's famous dau fu fa
The fried varieties
There were two varieties, the first was one where the top of the tofu had its top skin fried to a hard crisp with the rest of the tofu was still soft. The other one was a straightforward deep fried tofu. There were other savory sauces to go with the dau fu pok in the table. While the dau fu pok was decent, there wasn't anything special about it. The dau fu fa on the other hand was amazing and I really wish I had ordered another bowl of that while I was there. When you next head to Sham Shui Po and find yourself at Kung Wo for a good warm bowl of dau fu fa...make sure you ask for the back rooms to enjoy the experience even more.