With the gradual disappearance of old local shops, beancurd factories and workshops are now a rare sight in Hong Kong. The time-honoured Kung Wo Beancurd Factory has been in Sham Shui Po for over 63 years, selling more than 1,000 bowls of tofu pudding per day, sometimes reaching 2,000 bowls on weekends and public holidays. The bustling Pei Ho Street has a dizzying number of shops and people, but one can’t help but be drawn to the long-established Kung Wo Beancurd Factory, where local residents get their beancurd puffs; students devour bowls of tofu pudding; and tourists come to check off their Hong Kong bucket list.
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A meeting point for the Sham Shui Po community, Kung Wo Beancurd Factory was originally established on Tsim Sha Tsui’s Canton Road in 1893 by Lok Gong, a migrant from Guangdong. The shop later relocated to Sham Shui Po’s Pei Ho Street in 1958, and two years later, another branch opened in Kowloon City. In 1966, the founder sold both his shops. Loyal customer So Song-lim took over the Sham Shui Po store, and the Kowloon City store was owned by the Poon family until it closed in 2020.
Without the next generation taking over the business, a lot of old stores have unfortunately closed. Luckily for Kung Wo Beancurd Factory, So Song-lim’s daughter Renee started helping with the business seven years ago. Working in the financial industry, Renee practically grew up at the store. Being deeply connected to the store, in 2019, she decided to help reinvent the business, spending over one million dollars on renovation, improving fire safety equipment and air-conditioning. She invited an illustrator to create a wall mural depicting the traditional process of making soy products, which attracted many young people to visit the store. Kung Wo also launched its own-brand products and focused on promoting cultural heritage, partnering with various local brands for collaborations such as ginger-flavoured tofu pudding ice cream. This has completely transformed the store’s brand image and successfully revitalised this traditional shop. At the beginning of this year, Kung Wo Beancurd Factory was even awarded Bib Gourmand by the MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau 2022.
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The interior of the shop may have changed, but the way its soy dishes are made and taste remain the same. For all these years, Kung Wo Beancurd Factory has a shopfront that sells takeaway soy products and offers dine-in service; at the back is a workshop where tofu, soy milk and tofu pudding are made. Its tofu pudding, crafted using the same traditional family recipe, is made fresh daily. Every morning at 1am, the tofu master uses a large electric stone grinder to grind soybeans into soymilk, which is then filtered through a piece of gauze; the liquid is boiled in a big pot, being stirred consistently to achieve a silky smoothness. Lastly, gypsum powder is added so the soymilk curdles into delicious tofu pudding.
For four consecutive years since 2016, Kung Wo Beancurd Factory in Sham Shui Po has been on the MICHELIN Guide Hong Kong Macau’s list of recommended street food. This year is the first time that the restaurant has been awarded the Bib Gourmand label. Renee admits her pleasant surprise: “We’re so happy to be awarded, but mostly importantly, it is the appreciation from local residents and diners.” In a time where the food and beverage industry is facing some serious economic turbulence, Renee believes that being able to maintain the quality and keep this family-operated shop going is her ultimate pride and achievement.
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Photos by Gloria Chung @FOODANDTRAVELHK.
Article written by Gloria Chung, translated by Iris Wong. Read original article here.