The old man who sold tofu on Caine Road

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On Caine Road, there was once a old man who sold fresh tofu every day. You could hear him from a mile off and his voice was unmistakable, i...

On Caine Road, there was once a old man who sold fresh tofu every day. You could hear him from a mile off and his voice was unmistakable, immediately conjuring up images of him in his white sleeveless shirt and bicycle. This is the Hong Kong I remember.

By Karn G. Bulsuk

"Tao Huaaaaaay!"

The voice would be slighly horse, but extremely loud and clear. It was so distinct and unmistakable, and you would be able to hear it from far, far away.

It meant that the tofu grandpa would be there in front of Caine Road's Wellcome supermarket with his old bicycle, loaded up with a large bamboo bucket of hot tofu on the back, and bottles of soy milk hanging from the side.

He would always be dressed in a white sleeveless shirt, and he was always old from since I remembered him. When ordering, he would lift the gigantic bamboo lid from the bucket, and with a flat metallic spoon, would expertly top off slices of fresh and hot tofu into the round foam container. He would then add cool syrup on top, giving the tofu a touch of sweetness.

Paying attention to detail, and he would line the bottom of the plastic bag with a card board cut out so that when the container was put in, it wouldn't top over on its side. If you wanted to buy soy milk, you would need to get there quickly as he had a limited supply, and would be stored in used 1.5 litre Coke bottles, of which we would sometimes return to him for him to reuse.

I remember seeing him from the 1980s when I first arrived in Hong Kong until the mid 1990s, when he disappeared. I guess he got too old to continue his work. By then, times had changed and people were no longer able to openly sell food on the street without specific licenses - a new era had dawned.

But for me, whenever I eat tofu, I will always hear the crystal loud voice of the old man, announcing his presence in front of the supermarket.

This is the Hong Kong I remember.


Photo credit: karendotcom127

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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead: The old man who sold tofu on Caine Road
The old man who sold tofu on Caine Road
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Karn G. Bulsuk: Full Speed Ahead
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