Friday, 5 August 2011

Vietnamese tofu in tomato and black pepper sauce

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.    
Anyway, back to food - Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours, namely Cambodia, Chinese and Thailand. This recipe for Vietnamese tofu cooked in tomato pepper sauce comes from an Australian cook show named after its presenter chef  Luke Nguyens's.  In this series called 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. 
As I began to assemble the ingredients to proceed with the recipe, I noted that I did not have any vegetarian  oyster sauce which was going to substitute for the fish sauce in the original recipe, but determined to make this dish I replaced it with mushroom ketchup.  My Vietnamese readers will probably be shouting at me through the computer screen with great disappointment, as nuoc mam - salty fish sauce is an essential ingredient in Vietnamese cooking, but I hope they will forgive me this time round.

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. 
Crisp tofu cooked in tomato and black pepper sauce (dau hu sot ca)
Serves 4
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.


  1. Oooh, I'm SO going to try this - I've got some fresh tofu in the fridge!
    I'm also going to try those rosemary roast new potatoes...but not at the same time :)

  2. Lovely food!..., I like the rice ball in the middle with chili as add-ons.

  3. Super yum. I've really got to find vegetarian oyster sauce, I've tried the local asian supermarket but they don't stock it :( I shall keep looking ans try tis recipe!

  4. I am sure you will be forgiven, it looks so delicious. Wouldn't know where to get veggie oyster sauce anyway.

  5. Thanks Spécialiste de l'éphémère.

    Thank you Nutty Gnome.
    I do hope you like both of them, please do let me know :)

    Thanks Bangchik and Kakdah.
    You have to make food appeal to the eyes too, esp in blogging.

  6. Thanks Elise.
    In the past I have found some at the Chinese supermarkets, best place I think - but the labelling/language translation makes it a little difficult to identify.
    I need to get me some too.

    Thanks Jacqueline.
    I've always been able to find it in the Chinese supermarkets, so hopefully you can too. The next bottle I get, I will share location of purchase.

  7. Hi Shaheen,
    This dish looks delicious!
    Peace :)

  8. Thanks Chandra.
    It was lovely and light.


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