Ask any vegetarian or vegan living in Philadelphia for their favorite sandwich, and its a good bet that the answer will be the tofu hoagie from Fu-Wah Mini Market. Opened in 2003 by the Lai family, the same people behind the wildly popular and delicious Vietnam Restaurant, the small store has quickly become a West Philadelphia institution, selling a variety of groceries and Asian items. But it is the tofu hoagie that causes a small crowd of customers to hover around the register, and during nice weather on the sidewalk outside.
Based on the banh mi, a sandwich created during the French colonization of Vietnam, the tofu hoagie stuffs the same basic fillings (sans pork) into a fresh Amoroso’s roll rather than the traditional baguette. Warm, marinated tofu is topped with shreds of pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro and sliced jalapeño peppers, a sweet combination that finishes with a surprisingly spicy kick. A Vietnamese Chicken hoagie is also offered for the carnivores, but the chunks of dark meat chicken were incomparable to the light and fluffy taste of the tofu. It is interesting to note that customers who are normally wary of the taste of the soy-based product, have grown fond of the way it is prepared in Fu-Wah’s sandwich.
Although tofu hoagie veterans know the best way to obtain one without the wait is to call ahead, we found that watching the sandwich artist line up ten rolls on the counter and delicately prepare them one at a time was well worth it. Some find the 47th and Baltimore location to be a hike from Center City and beyond, but if you’re in West Philadelphia, we recommend giving the tofu hoagie a try.
Fu-Wah Mini Market
810 S 47th Street Philadelphia, PA 19143 (Google Map)