I was last in Vietnam three years ago, but every time I've visited this wonderful country the tofu is something that stands out above almost all else (the incessant "madam? madam! madam?!" beating it by a fine margin).
It was only after that last Vietnamese jaunt that I investigated some of the local dishes I loved (ahem) and, more than anything, that makes me realise how recent my interest in food as a serious hobby is. My love affair with South-east Asian cuisine has only grown in intensity since, and as I'm sticking to the theme for MoFo, I thought this would be another recipe worth sharing.
This recipe is a fusion of Vietnamese tofu with tomato sauce and another tofu dish (found on most in-country menus) that consists of chili and lemongrass stuffed deep fried bean curd. I think it's a delightful combination with bold, rich flavours, but mostly I just like to play with string.
Oh, about the string. In case you haven't noticed (did you see the title of my blog? The messy part didn't come out of nowhere), I have a kitchen neatness deficiency; keeping things tidy, in order, together, not haphazardly occuring, you get the picture. Well apparently that's just not my thing. It doesn't matter if it's in a pan, because it's just as likely to end up on the wall behind me (quite probably the one in the next room). Binding the tofu keeps the stuffing in order, mainly the sauce and the tofu as two seperate but partnered items in a dish.
I encourage even the anti chili-ites among you to try adding at least just a tiny bit of red chili to the sauce here. It's very complementary to the flavours (as in most SE Asian cooking, moreso than in any other in my opinion), and is a good place to start in building up a tolerance.
Last, but not least, substitute brown sugar if you don't have palm. But I admonish you to add this, the diamond of sugars, to your cupboard stores. It's better for you than regular sugar and the taste just can't be beat.
Braised Vietnamese-Inspired Lemongrass Stuffed Tofu
- Heat about an in of oil in a wok or pan to medium-high heat. Cut your tofu into four pieces and deep fry them in the oil for a few minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tempura rack to drain oil or on paper towels. Leave to cool.
- Meanwhile mix all of the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl. When the tofu is cooled enough to handle, slice each piece through the centre to about 1 centimetre from the far edge. Stuff each bean curd square with equal portions of the stuffing. I use kitchen twine to bind the tofu at this point so the filling doesn't fall out while cooking.
- Heat a little oil in a sauté pan and gently fry the garlic, shallot, ginger, and chili for a few minutes until fragrant. Pour the broth into the pan along and mix well.
- Turn the heat to medium low and add the sugar, soy sauces, lime juice, turmeric, and salt. Stir together quickly and tip in the tin of tomatoes.
- Place the stuffed tofu into the sauce, spooning a little bit on the tops of the squares. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, occasionally spooning more sauce over the tofu.
- Serve with rice and sprinkle with extra toasted sesame seeds to garnish. Don't eat the twine (you know at least one of you actually had to be told that).