Fu-Wah Market Tofu Hoagie Photo by Heather A. Davis

WHAT: Fu-Wah Mini Market and Deli.

WHERE: This market is located in the Cedar Park neighborhood of West Philadelphia, at 810 S. 47th St., just a couple of doors down from the Italian restaurant Abraccio.

WHY: Fu-Wah is a haven for those hard-to-find ethnic food items that aren’t stocked at the local grocery store.

THOSE TOFU HOAGIES: Sure, Fu-Wah will fix you a traditional ham and Swiss sandwich—and plenty of people get those. But why not sample what the grocery-deli is really known for in the neighborhood—traditional Vietnamese hoagies. The tofu hoagie (pictured), a winner for non- and meat eaters alike, is stuffed with flavorful marinated tofu; sweet-and-salty pickled daikon radish; fresh cilantro and fiery jalapeños, all tucked into a crusty hoagie roll.

WHAT’S ON THE SHELVES: Fu-Wah is a treasure trove for any cook or foodie, with fresh blocks of creamy tofu and a small, but packed-to-the-gills produce section, with thick bulbs of fresh ginger, leafy green bok choy, heady bunches of scallions and bags of bean sprouts and soft noodles. Tucked in among the lettuce and spinach are packs of light and dark miso paste, a steal at $2.50.
Fu-Wah has the convenience store staples, too—chips, nuts, basic household sundries—but those in the know go for its wide selection of dried fruit, rice noodles, dried seaweed and mushrooms, grape leaves and Vietnamese red pepper hot sauce.

THE VIBE: On a typical weeknight an hour before closing, the place is hopping with activity—a couple of hungry vegans waiting patiently for hoagies, a pair mulling over bags of dried fruit and a lone shopper snagging a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for dessert.

THE HISTORY: Fu-Wah has been a neighborhood staple since 1982, when Nhu Lai and Thuyen Luu saved enough money to open the store. A couple of years later, they branched out to open Vietnam, a restaurant on the edge of Chinatown that quickly became renowned for its great food and has been a Philadelphia staple ever since. Today, their son Benny runs the show.

THE DETAILS: Fu-Wah is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Call ahead for sandwiches at 215-729-2993.

Originally published on February 15, 2007