Other than those hard hitting American-Vietnam movies made in the 1980s, my experience of interacting with Vietnamese people is very little and of Vietnamese cuisine is zero. The one time I socially engaged with someone of Vietnamese background was at High School.
There weren't that many South-East Asian children at the school, and to be honest I would not have known this boys ethnicity had it not been splashed on the front cover of one of the local newspapers. The newspaper story shared how this boys family came to arrive in Wales, U.K as 'boat people' refugees in the 1970s. It was my first experience as a teen - not only of learning about Vietnam and some of its people, but the real plight of asylum seekers and refugees.Luke Nguyen's Vietnam, Luke returns to his country of heritage to take a culinary journey through Vietnam.
As you would expect, the series showcases lots of meat and fish recipes, including green mussels. However, in this one episode he makes a tofu dish cooked in tomato sauce. Other than this tofu recipe looking good to my greedy eyes, I decided to make it in my own home for two reasons, I had tofu in the fridge and I liked all the other ingredients.
I really liked this dish. It was sweet, light and peppery. It actually reminded me a little of Malaysian Black Pepper Tofu, but of course this recipe was not as heavily peppered, it still packed a flavour punch to the chops.
200ml vegetable oil
300g firm tofu, drained and cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 shallot, preferably pink minced
1 birds eye chilli, finely sliced
4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon Mushroom ketchup (vegetarian oyster or fish sauce)
3 spring onions, sliced
1 generous teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Coriander sprigs, to garnish
Pour the oil into a wok and heat until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds.
Add the tofu, cooking it in two batches to ensure the oil stays hot, and deep-fry until crisp. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and transfer to kitchen paper to drain.
Transfer the deep-frying oil into a deep bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok.
Add the garlic, shallot and chilli to the wok, and stir-fry for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar and sauce. Stir and allow the tomatoes to break down.
Add 100ml water to the wok, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the crisp tofu, spring onions and black pepper, folding it all together, and simmer for no longer than 1 minute as you want to keep the crisp texture of the tofu. Garnish with coriander. Adapted from Luke Nguyens's Vietnam. See original recipe being cooked here.