The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Philly Eats, Part II: Banh Mi from Q.T. and a Bucket-O-Bean-Curd

This entry originally took place on June 22. Here's part one!

Q.T.number three is DEAD
Number 3 is no longer with us. WEEP.

Upon my friends Lisa and Mel's recommendation, Alex and I ate lunch at Q.T. Vietnamese Sandwich, a small, take-out mostly (I would assume) banh mi shop in Chinatown. He had never eaten a banh mi before, one of the most gloriously delicious and inexpensive members of the sandwich family. We obviously had to change that...and thus change the course of his sandwich-eating ways forever.

Lemongrass tofu
Half of the lemongrass tofu.

The lone vegetarian (and thus Alex-friendly) option, lemongrass tofu, was tasty enough even for an omnivore. Thin, firm, lemongrass-flavored tofu slices were topped with cucumber, shredded carrots, and cilantro in a light, slightly roll smeared with mayo.

Whole sammich another view
Thar be pork.

I went with the standard house special—you know, the one will all the pork goo in it. Vietnamese ham, Vietnamese pork, and barbecued pork smushed together in porcine harmony. The meatstuffs were complemented by raw cucumber, shredded carrot, and cilantro.

iced milk tea
Milk tea!

I couldn't pass up a cold cup of iced milk tea, one of my favorite beverages on my not-very-long, alcohol-free list of drinks I like.

Heung Fa Chun Sweet House menu

After devouring our sandwiches, we went down the street to Heung Fa Chun Sweet House for a simple, traditional Chinese dessert: douhua, hot chunks of super-soft tofu that in this case were topped with a light and sweet ginger-flavored syrup.

dou hua

The buckets came in one size: far too much for one person. Hell, too much for two people. And it only cost $1.25, so they don't have much of a reason to offer smaller, cheaper portions. The tofu is as soft as panna cotta with a feather-light texture.

I nom nom

Alex only ate a few bites before calling it quits (at least I got him to try something new!), leaving me the task of somehow getting through the rest. In their attempt to recapture bits of my sparsely douhua-littered childhood, my nostalgic taste buds kept me going. And going. And I mindlessly continued shoveling bean curd jigglets down my throat, the soybean flavor mildly offset by the sweet syrup. I always want more syrup with this dessert than what's actually given.

In the end, I so could not finish it. FAIL. But it was good while it lasted.


Q.T. Vietnamese Sandwich
48 N 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Heung Fa Chun Sweet House
112 N 10th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107


SuperChomp / August 12, 2009 6:33 AM

Since developing a taste for cilantro/coriander, the sandwich looks really good. The Vietnamese ham looks like it has a tuned-for-taste meat to fat ratio too. Good idea/bad idea/yummy idea?

I always find tofu dessert to be oddly filling/ appetite stifling. I absolutely love silken tofu, but I can only ever manage one or two bites of dessert style, although that is the same with grass jelly (another thing where there is never enough syrup).

kim / August 12, 2009 7:59 AM

tofu is a source of protein, so it could be very filling, especially after you finished your gigantic sandwich. :)

I find NYC's Chinatown douhua not as good as the one in yum cha. The syrup makes all the difference too.

Kates / August 12, 2009 9:35 AM

Those banh mi look great! Usually the ones I see have more condiments and toppings, but if the meat is really good just carrot cucumber would make it stand out. Do you ever get grilled shrimp paste? That's my all-time favorite.

Phyllis (me HUNGRY!) / August 12, 2009 9:39 AM

You are good friend indeed for introducing Alex to banh mi! And how is it that I am Chinese yet have never tried douhua before? (I blame my parents) The smell of silken tofu is my favorite smell in the world. Seriously. So take me with you next time and I will gladly finish your leftovers :)

Louisa Edwards / August 12, 2009 10:09 AM

I'm so looking that banh mi place up if I ever go back to Philly! Although I recently made my own, with my friend Meg (Queenie Takes Manhattan) and they were stupendous. Love your photos!

Shirley / August 12, 2009 5:09 PM

Hi there, I've been following your blog for a couple months now and felt compelled to comment on your this post. I'm originally from Beijing and my childhood, too, was also "littered" (but not-so-sparsely) with douhua. Good blogging and it all makes me so jealous that you're able to get your hands on some. Currently residing in Honolulu, I have little hopes of that...

roboppy / August 12, 2009 11:57 PM

SuperChomp: Good idea? BEST IDEA EVER.

GRAASS JELLEH...I haven't had that in ages. Not that I get much opportunity. Hm. I'll put that on my list.

IntegerClub: Someday I'll have my own dessert show where the tofu is swimming in a bucket of ginger syrup. Then the ratio will finally be PERFECT.

Kim: True, downing a huge sammich probably didn't help my appetite for proteiny dessert. :)

Kates: I've rarely had grilled shrimp paste, but I do like it! I just don't eat enough Vietnamese food in general. :(

Phyllis: Zomg, I hope you seek douhua now! :)

Louisa: I've never made my own banh mi...good idea! But then it can be so cheap, it's not worth making myself. Unless I have..a BANH MI PARTY.

Shirley: Thanks for reading!

No douhua in Honolulu? :( But there are so many other marvelous things! I'm looking forward to my first taste of real SHAVE ICE.

yoko: And now I LOVE IT TOO.

Ms. Blake / August 13, 2009 2:03 PM

I'd never thought of using tofu in desserts before. Looks like I have a new recipe to torture my family with!

FatManSeoul / August 13, 2009 10:47 PM

Mmmm, we are tempted to recreate one of those sandwiches here - but with KIMCHI! Yes! Kimchi and ham and crusty bread!
Incidentally, some of the items on the dessert menu, such as the sweet red bean soup, seem awfully familiar . . . did you try 팥죽 (patjuk - red bean porridge) while you were here in Seoul? Is it the same thing?

Nathalie / August 14, 2009 9:59 PM

Aah, Q.T. I love their bahn mi something awful X3. But there should be a tofu and mushroom sandwich option in addition to the lemongrass tofu O_o It's what my sister got the first time we went there.

roboppy / August 15, 2009 1:12 AM

Ms. Blake: At least it's not a very involved recipe: GET SOFT PLOPPY TOFU, ADD SUGAR!

FatMalSeoul: Whoa, I'd totally eat a kimchi ham sammich. PICKLES AND MEAT! Cannot go wrong.

I didn't try red bean porridge in Seoul, but it looks similar to the Chinese stuff I've had.

Mahar: Mm..tofu and sugar and ginger flavored? Oooh.

Nathalie: Tofu and shroom!..oops, I don't remember. I took a menu with me, I should look at it! (Alas, now I am in Philly again, hehe. Gonna eat some burgerrrs.)

Mila / August 15, 2009 2:59 AM

One day, you will be in Manila, and you'll get to try our version of douhau - we call it taho, and it's got the same stuff you had up there, silky tofu, sweet syrup, and we add small chewy tapioca balls (sago). It's a perfect morning, afternoon, evening snack.

Pizza Quixote / July 6, 2011 10:50 PM

Just had one yesterday. No better sandwich than bahn mi, and no better banh mi than QT. Bonus, the staff are so sweet. I just did a full write up on my pizza blog!

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