Here’s another episode in my food adventures with Christine! I love trying new recipes with friends because it’s so much fun to cook and taste new foods. And if the recipe doesn’t work out, you’ve at least shared a good laugh together.
We made two Vietnamese dishes: crisp tofu in tomato-pepper sauce, and vegetables cooked in soy-sauce (recipe to follow). I would highly recommend both of these dishes if you’re looking for something a little different, but not too difficult.
Start by deep frying the tofu in 2 batches. Frying the tofu is probably the most time-intensive and technically challenging part (oil splatters during deep frying are not fun). You could try to coat the tofu in vegetable oil and baking it if you’re so inclined–maybe 425° F for 10-15 min, turning once during the cooking process. The sauce involves boiling tomatoes and a bunch of other seasonings together. The fried tofu gets coated in the tomato sauce, and the whole thing is garnished with thinly sliced scallions and cilantro.
For vegetarian and vegan-friendly version, substitute soy sauce for fish sauce.
What makes this dish so good? It’s the contrast of flavours and textures. The acidic tomatoes with salty fish sauce, slight hint of heat from the chili flakes, and mellowness from the sugar — everything is in perfect balance. The boldness of the ingredients work well with tofu, which is essentially a blank canvas for flavour. Deep frying tofu forms a crisp exterior with tiny bumps, which helps the sauce to cling on.
Crisp Tofu in Tomato-Pepper Sauce
- 454 g medium-firm tofu, diced, 3 cm (1.25 inch) cubes
- 200 mL vegetable oil, for frying
- 1 tbsp garlic, minced
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 4 Roma tomatoes, diced, 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) cubes
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 100 mL water
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 2-3 spring onions, finely sliced
- 5-6 sprigs coriander, minced
- Heat oil in a wok over medium-high. When the oil shimmers, add half of the tofu and fry on all sides until golden and crisp, drain on a plate. Repeat with other half of tofu.
- Leave 1 tbsp of the oil in the wok and pour out the rest. Over medium-high heat, stir-fry garlic, shallots, and chili flakes until fragrant, approx 30 -60 seconds. Add tomatoes, salt, sugar, fish sauce, and water. Reduce sauce by boiling uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Add pepper, spring onions, coriander, and fried tofu. Stir to coat with sauce.
- Serve with some form of starch (steamed rice for example).
What I would do differently next time:
- Add more chili flakes (closer to 1 tsp, but this may be because my chili is old and not as flavourful)
- Add more ground pepper (1 tsp rather than 1/2 tsp)
- Maybe try with silken tofu