The origins of Yong Tow Foo

Yong Tow Foo origins local food heritage history
Yong Tow Foo origins local food heritage history
The Hakkas invented Yong Tow Foo when they migrated South

Yong tow foo is one of the classic local Singaporean dishes. The founder of Gao Ji Food shares with us its origins

Hakka yong tow Foo has been around in Singapore for a very long time. Gao Ji Food pioneered its popularity in Singapore since the 1960s.

Gao Ji is better known by its dialect name, Koo Kee Yong Tow Foo Mee. Mr Chong Yik Hwee, the founder of Gao Ji Food, shares with us about its origins.

Yong Tow Foo origins local food heritage history
Mr Chong Yik Hwee, the founder of Gao Ji Food

Origin of Koo Kee & Yong Tau Foo

From a humble background, Mr Chong had to stop his studies in order to help his mother at the family’s yong tow foo stall when his father fell ill. Today, Mr Chong now manages eight gourmet brands with over 50 outlets island-wide.

Yong tow foo is a food of Hakka origin that has been passed down from generation to generation. The Hakkas are a group of “Han” Chinese originally active around the Yellow River area and have a staple diet of dumplings.

After migrating South-ward, they found it difficult to get flour for the dumplings. However, due to the belief that dumplings are essential during the Chinese New Year season to bring good fortune, they started to stuff fillings into bean curd to replace the dumplings. Hence, the creation of the dish we know today.

Mr Chong says, “For traditional Hakka yong tow foo, the Hakka people used the ‘oily-tender’ pork stuffed into ‘salty-aromatic’ bean curd. To bring out the taste and fragrance, the older generation of Hakka people used pork neck meat and salty fish for the filling to make it chewy.”

Yong Tow Foo origins local food heritage history

Koo Kee Yong Tow Foo Mee

To keep up with the times, Koo Kee Yong Tow Foo Mee, has changed the minced meat topping for their noodles from pork to chicken to make the dish healthier.

“Apart from that, our recipe has remained the same for the past 60 years. Our customers are still served a standard bowl of five different items – tau hu (soft white bean curd), tau kuah (firm bean curd), tau pok (deep-fried bean curd), tau kee (bean curd skin) and fishballs with a bowl of noodles,” says Mr Chong.

“These items are usually paired with our very own secret recipe of sweet sauce or chilli sauce,”
he adds.

From a humble zinc and wood stall next to Majestic theatre to the thriving enterprise it is, the humble hawker dish of yong tow foo certainly has a rich heritage.