Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Third-generation owner of a century-old tofu pudding shop evolves his products while preserving “the taste of Hong Kong”.

By Jasmine Lam

Tofu pudding is all Liu Chun-kin wants for a great meal.

“I want to get back to the old feelings. Just like when I was young, I am already happy when eating rice with tofu pudding,” says Liu, the third-generation owner of the century-old tofu pudding shop Liu Ma Kee.

Liu Ma Kee is a handmade bean curd family business in Hong Kong with a store located in Jordan, with 118 years of history. 

It was established by Liu’s grandfather in 1905. Initially, it was a store for tofu and soybean pudding in Kwun Chung Market in Yau Ma Tei. 

Liu’s love for bean products is shared by people who have emigrated from the city for a long time.

“I still remember there was a 90-year-old woman who came back from the US with her whole family just to buy our bean curd. She said tasting it was her last wish, ” he recalls.

The current Liu Ma Kee store locates in Jordan.

Liu has been making bean curd for over 50 years since he was six. He inherited the shop from his father in 1984 when he was 21 years old. 

“I woke up at 5 a.m. at that time. I then started grinding soybeans and inspecting the factory until 6 p.m. Everyone woke early and worked hard, ” the 63-year-old recalls. 

“Now I help out when I am free. I do a little bit of everything, like fetch and carry work,” he says.

The business owner wants to follow the traditional formula, but some changes need to be made to catch up with current trends.  

“Responding to customers’ health concerns, we have reduced the content of salt in our products. But we can’t cut it by too much, or else it will turn bad,” Liu says.

“We always chat with and listen to customers’ opinions about our products,” he says, adding that it is the key to keep the business alive.

Apart from adjustment in the recipe, the production process and the source of ingredients have also changed.

“Most of the process is done in Hong Kong. We used to procure local ingredients only. But now our soybeans are from Canada, while the salt and wine are from mainland China due to the rising price of local products,” Liu says.

Since 1998, his wife has created different kinds of sauces including garlic fermented soy cream, Guilin chili sauce, and soybean BBQ sauce. 

Recipes about how to cook with their sauces featuring dishes like spaghetti carbonara and stir-fried scallops and broccoli are also printed for their customers.  

The family business faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a temporary decline in sales due to travel restrictions. Customers who emigrated to other countries were unable to fly back to buy their products.  

The price of a cup of bean curd has gone up over the years due to the rising costs. For example, the price of the largest package of bean curd was HK$8 (US$1.02) in 1961. But the price of it is HK$150 (US$19.21) in 2023.

Liu Ma Kee products are available in different sizes.

However, Liu says he is not worried about the competition from cheap mainland products. 

“Our product is no less competitive than mainland ones. I believe the quality of ingredients and supervision are crucial to producing superior bean curd. There is nothing to worry about,” Liu says. 

Liu’s son is willing to take care of the business as he wants to preserve “the taste of Hong Kong”. 

“I am too old to think about it. Just let it be. Maybe our offspring will continue the business at last, ”he says.

“Do your part well and uphold quality for the brand,” the owner says.

Sub-edited by Leopold Chen