Tahoooo!!! Tahoooo!!! Tahooooo!!! I used to hear this line in our neighborhood in Makati City (a city in Metro Manila) when I was a kid. This often wakes me up during Saturday mornings (as for weekdays, I usually wake up at 5:30 am for my morning classes, which is way earlier than the round of that morning shouts). So during weekends, when I hear that shout, I immediately grab my cup from the kitchen and run towards the gate to buy my favorite taho which I think is an icon in Pinoy's breakfast meal.
Taho is a Philippine snack food, traditionally sold and taken during mornings, made out of medium firmness tofu, arnibal (similar to caramel) and sago (similar to pearl tapioca). Philippines' taho, which can be found anywhere in the country, is similar to Indonesia's and Malaysia's tahu. Ancient records suggest that taho originated from the Chinese douhua. Even before the Spanish conquest of the Philippine islands, Chinese traders have interacted with our forefathers, hence enriching our culinary.
Taho is made by processing the silken tofu to become a very fine custard. Brown sugar will be caramelized to create the arnibal which will sweeten the recipe. Sago will be boiled until it becomes gummy. All the ingredients will be put into two large aluminum cans - sago and arnibal (plus the plastic cups and money) ompartmentalized in one can while the actual taho will be in the other container. Once a customer buys, the three main ingredients will then be put in a cup and mixed. And taho is then ready to be taken either by using a spoon or sipping it from the cup.
The two aluminum cans, hanged from each end of a yoke, will be carried by the magtataho (taho vendor). The magtataho will then walk the streets and shout tahoooo to get the attention of the people. It is a common sight, and sound, in the country but as I slowly grow older, the less often that I hear the said shouts of the magtataho. I don't know if I just take things for granted or if I'm bitten with the fast paced urban lifestyle that I have become deaf with this what used to be a familiar sound.
'But one day, I just missed this childhood favorite and I looked and asked around so I can grab that cup of taho again. And from what I witnessed, our favorite taho has already evolved to catch up with the changing times.
Now, there's a taho that can be bought at the grocery. And it can be warm or cold. Before, what's sold are just the warm ones, and I just put it inside the refrigerator to cool it up. If I want it to kick off my day (as a breakfast) then I'll take it hot but if I want it to keep me relaxed (as a dessert), then I'll take it cold.
And there's a mall or food court bound magtataho that goes around to sell taho but sans the loud shout! I was amazed when I saw one in SM Megamall! I just love how they innovated our traditional taho. And now, there are many flavor variations to choose from!
And then, there's still the traditional taho, but this time, the magtataho rides a side car already. Oh well, this can make his work his easy so that's a pleasant change as well for me.
But when I went to Manila a few weeks back, I once again witnessed the traditional look, sound and taste of our taho. It was nostalgic for me as it brought me good old memories worth reminiscing over and over again.
Taho may just be a simple snack or staple food but its existence and to a certain extent evolution is deeply rooted to our culture. So the next time we get and drink of cup taho, let's just think it doesn't just nourish our body but our hungry Filipino soul as well.
And this is one thing that makes up a Bayanihan Republic! :)