Magic Beans

Healthy and cheap, soy delights to please the palate

Soybeans have long been touted as the latest super food, hailed for their ability to fight cancer, lower cholesterol and improve memory. And while they’re easy to grow and cheap to buy, it’s a wonder why we don’t eat more of them. Phung wants to change all that. Having loved and longed-for all the delicious soy recipes she’d tried abroad, Phung, who owns The Bean Store (399 Vo Van Tan, D3), wanted to bring them back to her native Vietnam.

Although Vietnamese cuisine does incorporate soy into some of its puddings, to the uninitiated, the ladies selling it out of nondescript vats on the side of the road are an intimidating prospect. The Bean Store has created a more appealing option. At the west end of Vo Van Tan, wedged among rolls of shops on the busy street, the café is a hidden haven. Phung’s design background and personality are evident in the cutesy contemporary layout – pared back pine furniture, Polaroid photo collages and a laid-back vibe.


As the first restaurant to specialize in soybeans, the menu champions all things soy – soybean pudding and bean curd are the most popular. Both are based on a soy milk jelly, made by mixing soy milk with a natural gelatin. The puddings are then mixed with various flavors (matcha, pandan leaf, chocolate or vanilla) and poured into molds and chilled to create a kaleidoscope of individual mini-desserts (VND35,000). The bean curd puddings use the same soy base, but are then paired with a host of different extras from lotus and longan (the Bean Curd Lolo Mix), pomelo, mango and watermelon (the Bean Curd LA Mix, VND49,000) to the more traditional hot ginger syrup.


Alongside the puddings, they serve every imaginable soy shake and smoothie as well as a selection of lesser-known Japanese savory snacks – more culinary relics from Phung’s travels.

It hasn’t been totally plain sailing for The Bean Store – compared to what you buy on the street, the prices are a bit more expensive, and culturally soy has a reputation for being unhealthy for men. However, 18 months in, it has overcome critics, spawned a host of copycats and there’s even talk of a second store opening in the future. For those unfamiliar with soy, this is the perfect introduction. And if you’re still not convinced, they do a great lunch deal too.

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