Thanh Son Tofu

Vegetarian/Vegan, Vietnamese
$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

By Walter Nicholls
Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Last March Kim Trinh and his wife, Miss Kim, decided to sell their doughnut shop in Alexandria and try something new.

"My parents are getting old and they were tired of working all night making doughnuts," says daughter Hanh, one of the couple's nine children.

They considered opening a laundromat. That idea fizzled. What they really wanted was a shop featuring fried, flavored tofu.

"There was no store like that in the area," says son Hoang. The family knew there were risks. "We didn't know how customers would react," he says. Still, in early January the Trinhs opened Thanh Son Tofu in the Eden Shopping Center -- a busy mall in Falls Church with more than 100 Vietnamese- owned businesses. Now, tofu is flying out the door.

First and foremost, Thanh Son is a tofu factory that produces fresh soy milk and fresh, firm, relatively dry, Vietnamese-style tofu. But it's the lightly crisped, deep-fried, lemon grass/red pepper flake tofu as well as the green onion-flavored tofu that has folks forming long lines.

In addition, there are four terrific sticky rice dishes -- the best seller a combo of sticky rice with hominy and mung beans topped with crisp, fried green onion. There are eight tapioca-based desserts. One has thin slices of an Asian variety of banana combined with coconut milk, topped with chopped, toasted peanuts. Another, simply soft tapioca and crunchy fresh sweet corn.

The Trinhs make a delicious ginger- flavored tofu pudding that is served hot. A ginger syrup is served alongside to sweeten the pudding to taste.

Says Hoang Trinh: "People eat it here. People take it home and reheat it. Some people can't wait, they like it so much. They eat it in the car."