Yentafo, sometimes written with partitioned syllables as yen ta fo, is an ostensibly vibrant Thai soup noodles dish. The colouring varies from apricot to an irradiated looking flourescent pink. The latter renders the dish easily recognisable and, unfortunately, is more often than not an indication of who serves the worst renditions.
The colour, originally and still today in the best versions, is derived from the red rice koji used in the fermentation of what should be a major component of the sauce: fermented tofu. I've added the optional ingredient of beetroot powder to my yentafo sauce, should you wish for a more vibrant looking soup. This doesn't affect the flavour at all and is an optional ingredient.
The yentafo sauce is like Japanese tare is to ramen, only it isn't intended to provide complete flavour. That is up to you, or whoever is eating, to tend with various condiments every noodle soup eatery in Thailand will have to hand. The suggested condiments, or kruang prung, are included in the recipe ingredients.
This is a typically seafood laden dish, but the many vegan bowls I have consumed in Thailand and in my own home are proof this and other dishes can be made without animals.
You'll get about six bowls out of the yentafo sauce recipe, with a little spare in case you like it so much you want to flavour your soup with extra. Noodle soups are a popular breakfast food in Thailand, and I love them too. I make the sauce in combination with my noodle soup stock, and am set for a week's worth of breakfast.
Vegan Yentafo เย็นตาโฟ
- Two saucepans
- Noodle basket (optional but recommended)
- Cooking chopsticks (optional but recommended)
- 75 grams fermented red tofu 3-4 tablespoons
- 30 millilitres brine from red fermented tofu 2 tablespoons
- 60 millilitres passata ¼ cup
- 3 cloves garlic chopped
- 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon white rice vinegar not sushi rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1-2 teaspoons beetroot powder optional
Per single serving
- 2 tablespoons yentafo sauce
- 1 teaspoon thin soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon fried garlic in garlic oil see notes1
- Good pinch salt
- 250 millilitres vegetable stock see notes2
- 1-2 tofu puffs halved into triangles
- 1-2 vegan fish balls see notes3
- 1-2 pieces mock squid see notes3
- 50-60 grams dried thin rice noodles, soaked for at least 10 minutes in warm water or 80-100 grams sen yai noodles, depending on how hungry you are see notes4
- ⅓-½ cup 2 inch pieces water spinach stems some leaves are fine too
- ⅓-½ cup bean sprouts
- Small broken off piece dried white fungus
- 1 tablespoon chopped mix of one or more of spring onion, coriander, Chinese celery
- Fried wonton skins see notes5
- kruang prung of chilli vinegar, soy sauce or chillies soaked in soy sauce, sugar, prik bon see notes6
Make the yentafo sauce
- Add the fermented tofu, brine, garlic, vinegar, sugar, ketchup, and salt to a small saucepan. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring often. When cooled slightly, blend until smooth. You can now add beetroot powder (or pink dye) if you wish for a brighter pink colour. Decant into a jar. This can be kept, refrigerated, for at least a week (realistically a few).
Per single serving bowl
- Add the yentafo sauce, soy sauce, fried garlic in garlic oil, and salt to a serving bowl.
- Fill a saucepan deep enough to submerge the contents of a noodle basket with water and bring to a rapid boil.
- Add the tofu puffs, fish balls, mock squid, and white fungus to a saucepan with your stock (you can use the pan you used to make yentafo sauce – no need to rinse out). Bring to a boil and knock the heat down to medium low. If the fish balls and tofu puffs are frozen, they’ll need to cook for 5-10 minutes, until the fish balls float. Otherwise they’ll take a minute or so.
- Place noodles, water spinach, and bean sprouts into a noodle basket. Plunge the basket into the boiling water and cook, agitating with chopsticks to ensure even cooking, for between 30-60 seconds. Pull the basket out of the water and shake the basket to offload excess water (if you’re not comfortable doing this without making a mess you can move the basket over a large bowl and shake within the confines of this splashproof space).
- Tip the contents of the noodle baskets into the prepped serving bowl. Pour the contents of the stock pan over the noodles. Garnish with the fresh chopped herbs and a fried wonton or seven. Serve with chilli vinegar, soy sauce or soy sauce soaked chillies, sugar, and toasted chilli powder as condiments.
- Make your own fried garlic in garlic oil (gratiem jeow)
- The stock I use is my vegan Thai noodle soup stock recipe.
- In the UK you can buy vegan fish balls and squid from Veggie World. If you can’t find these items, just omit them and add some more tofu puffs, vegetables, or even fresh tofu.
- Should you wish to use fresh rice noodles, you can check out my sen yai recipe.
- You can use a storebought variety of wonton skins to fry or you can use my recipe for fried wonton skins (geow tod).
- In Thailand noodle soups are not complete upon delivery to the table, and require additional seasoning to suit the diner's palate. This soup, despite its bold flavour base, is no different. These three simple recipes, in addition to sugar, and will elevate your bowl to suit your preferences: