Vietnamese Stuffed Tofu

If you are not into stuffing squid, how about tofu? Actually this recipe is not as fussy as it might look. The small squares of tofu are easily slit open and filled with a thin layer of a flavorful pork and mushroom mixture. With the addition of an egg to bind the filling they hold together when pan frying, making for a relatively easy, elegant appetizer or main dish. Oh yes, and they are tasty, especially fresh hot. Although this isn’t the season for it, the sauce would be better made with good quality fresh tomatoes rather than canned as it cooks for just 5 minutes.

Panfried Stuffed Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Based on the recipe in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen

Remember to soak the mushrooms in advance.

1/3 lb. ground pork
1 scallion, minced
2-4 shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 2 hours, stems removed and caps minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T fish sauce
¼ t black pepper
1 t cornstarch mixed with 2 t water

1 large block of regular, medium firm tofu (you do not want the tofu too soft or too firm)
Vegetable oil for frying

2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ c tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (out of season canned tomato can be substituted*)
¼ c water
1 T fish sauce
Salt and sugar to taste

In a small bowl thoroughly mix the ingredients for the filling and set aside.

Drain and pat dry the block of tofu. For a standard size block, first cut it in half lengthwise and then slice each half into ½ inch thick pieces. Your final cut portions should be about 2-2 ½ inches square and ½ inch thick. To form the pocket for the filling, lay each piece on a flat surface and slice across the square such that you would have two squares each ¼ inch thick. BUT STOP before slicing all the way through leaving a ¼ inch edge that binds the two halves.

To fill the tofu, lay the square on a flat surface and gently open up the top flap. Fill with a ¼ inch layer of the pork filling and set the square on a plate lined with a paper towel. Fill the rest of the squares in the same manner. Blot the top of the squares with a paper towel to absorb any excess moisture.

Preheat the oven to 200°. Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. When the oil is hot, gently place the filled tofu squares in the pan and fry for about 5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cook in batches as to not crowd the squares. Adjust the heat if the squares are browning too slowly or too fast. Placed the cooked squares on a plate lined with paper towels and gently blot off any excess oil. Place the plate in the oven to keep warm while finishing the sauce.

To cook the sauce, pour any excess oil out of the skillet and reheat. When hot add the garlic and stir-fry 15-30 seconds until fragrant. If there is any remain filling you can add it to the pan and stir-fry for a minute or two to cook the pork. Then add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until the tomato breaks down and the flavors have melded. Add more water if necessary. Correct the seasoning and plate the tofu squares with the sauce.

*If using canned tomatoes, reduce or eliminate the ¼ cup of water in the sauce.