Eat like a local, Vietnamese supper: Dau phu sot ca chua

bowl plates

Recreating dishes from your travels can often be a let down. There’s always something vital missing: that specialist indigenous spice, the depth of flavours only an Asian sun can create or an ancient fermenting technique that the locals guard surreptitiously.

Not with this recipe! It’s identical to the Dau phu sot ca chua (fried tofu in tomato sauce) my other half became obsessed with during a month-long motorbike adventure in Vietnam a few years ago. (His words incidentally, not mine.) His only criticism was, he’d prefer the tofu to be cubed, not triangular. High praise indeed, from a very particular eater.

Being vegetarian, he found it virtually impossible to find food he could eat in Vietnam. He ate this dish almost every day, sometimes twice. So I dedicate this post to my better half: lover of ketchup on my sea bass suppers and champion of baked beans and mayonnaise on homemade pizzas.

Dau phu sot ca chua: Fried tofu in tomato sauce

A subtly sweet and spicy, fruity sauce with crispy fried tofu. Delicious served with Thai sticky rice. If we were in Vietnam, there’d be a serving of Stir-fried Morning Glory (Rau Myong Xao Toi) with this meal. It’s a cross between bok choy cabbage, water spinach and a leafy thin tender stem broccoli, without the florets. Stir-fried with fresh chilies, fish sauce, soy sauce and around fifteen (yes, I once counted) garlic cloves. You can’t find this in the UK, so we settled for spinach with fried garlic and fish sauce. It was a good alternative.

frying fried

Ingredients:

200ml vegetable or sunflower oil

500g silken tofu, cubed or cut into small triangles

3 cloves garlic, grated

1 tablespoon shredded shallots

1 red chili, finely chopped

4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

100ml water

Sea salt

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 spring onions, finely sliced length-ways

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander

Directions:

  1. Remove tofu from packaging and drain on a generous amount of kitchen towel for 25 minutes
  2. When tofu has rested, heat the oil to 180 degrees C or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil browns in 15 seconds
  3. Add the tofu, cooking it in batches to ensure the oil stays hot, and deep-fry until crisp
  4. Remove the tofu and transfer to kitchen paper-lined tray to drain.
  5. Carefully, transfer the deep-frying oil into a deep bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon oil in the wok. 

Now add the garlic, Asian shallots, and chili to the wok and stir-fry for 1 minute, or until fragrant.
  6. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and fish sauce, stir and allow the tomatoes to break down.
  7. Add 100 ml water to the wok, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add the crisp tofu, spring onions, and black pepper, folding it all together, and simmer for no longer than 1 minute as we want to keep the crisp texture of the tofu.
  9. Garnish with coriander

Thưởng thức! Or, enjoy, as we say in the West.

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