Every vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike will tell you that Fu-Wah makes the best tofu hoagie in town. I know this because anytime I mention or write about a banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich that is clearly the inspiration for Fu-Wah's hoagie, someone will chime in with, "Aw, man, you gotta try the tofu hoagie at Fu-Wah!"
After sitting in my to-do list for over two years, I finally made it over to Fu-Wah, a West Philly neighborhood grocer, to try the infamous tofu hoagie. I've got good news, bad news, and good news.Good news - Fu-Wah's 6-inch tofu hoagie for $3.75 is a tasty little sandwich loaded with fried tofu pulled straight from a warm vat of soy saucy sweet juices; a nice big pile of thin, pickled strips of daikon and carrots; a couple sprigs of cilantro; shake of black pepper; and a healthy squirt of sriracha sauce. I've heard talk of jalapenos, but there were no jalapenos on mine, even though I asked for everything.
Bad news - The bread is all wrong. The soft, 6-inch hoagie roll is not a thin, long, crispy crusted baguette that is usually used for a banh mi, and perhaps that's why Fu-Wah doesn't dare call this sandwich a banh mi, but instead calls it a tofu hoagie. In the ten minutes it took to get the sandwich to my dining destination, the juices from the tofu made a soggy mess of the soft roll. If you're really jonesin' for a traditional banh mi on a baguette, Fu-Wah's not going to do it for you.
Good news - OMG, this is the best little neighborhood grocer I've ever seen! Besides serving up sandwiches and hot eats, Fu-Wah has a mix of Asian foods, vegan and vegetarian foods, European foods, American grocery store standards, and fresh produce. You can pick up toilet paper, mochi, trail mix, Kinder Chocolate, Newman's Own cookies, bean sprouts, spaghetti sauce, and inari all at one place! And, get this, you can even pick up a package of active dry yeast! Swoon.
OK, now I know the Fu-Wah tofu hoagie is a beloved institution in Philly, so before you lambaste me with nasty comments, let's be sure you're picking up what I'm putting down. The sandwich is tasty and cheap, and I would gladly gobble one up any time you want to put one in front of me, but a person walking in there looking for a banh mi is not going to be happy with the bread. Fu-Wah's tofu hoagie is a hybrid of a banh mi and a hoagie. Philly is a hoagie town, so I guess it's only fitting.
Fu-Wah Mini Market
810 S. 47th St., Philadelphia, PA 19143
open 7 days a week, 9am-9pm