Watch CBS News

Family-Run Tofu Shop Fong On, Founded In 1933, Is Embracing Its Past And Future

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – In Chinatown, a tofu shop steeped in history is embracing what's next.

Paul Eng runs Fong On, a business his grandfather started in Lower Manhattan in 1933 and passed down through the generations.

"All through its history, it's sort of adapted to the market," Paul said.

His grandfather had prepared one individual block of tofu at a time, using heavy stones to extract the water. When Paul's father took over, he scaled up, swapping stones for a pneumatic press.

Paul's interpretation of the business focuses on a ready-to-eat tofu bar offering freshly-made hot or cold tofu pudding with customizable toppings.

"Tofu pudding is, basically, really ultra-soft tofu. We call it pudding because it's similar in consistency," he said.

Red bean, taro balls, and grass jelly add sweetness and color. Plain tofu with sweet syrup is a more traditional Cantonese option. But Paul's personal favorite is the savory version, topped with dried shrimp, pickled radish, fried shallots, fresh scallions, sesame oil, and chili sauce for saltiness and spice.

Also on the menu are homemade soy milk and sticky, sweet rice cakes in flavors like matcha and ginger.

In the kitchen, Paul still makes tofu using the barrels his grandfather bought in the 1940s. He feels connected to his predecessors by their shared livelihood.

"For me, it's just a representation of existing a little bit longer with a family legacy and doing the same thing that my family did before, and for the same reason: To support my family," he said.

The business has a new location on Division Street. Paul appreciates this corner of Chinatown for the way it embodies his hopes for Fong On.

"It's sort of one foot in the past and one foot in the future," he said.

Fong On
81 Division Street
New York, NY 10002
(917) 261-7222

What's something few people know about but everybody should? Whatever it is, Elle McLogan is tracking it down on The Dig. Join her hunt for treasures hidden across our area. Follow Elle on Twitter and Instagram.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.