Mom’s cooking #3 – Stuffed tofu in tomato sauce

Guest post by Mom, translated by me

Tofu is a familiar face in the Asian kitchens, especially the Far East ones: Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean. In Korean dramas, the Koreans have tofu for every meal and some would give a block of white dobu to people who just get out of detention, perhaps to wish them a good, new start without impurities and no returning to jail? A cute, meaningful tradition I think. Up north Vietnam, đậu phụ used to be the main source of protein, despite having “phụ” (secondary) in its name. After all, the old Mr. Lê in Nhất Linh‘s New Bridge Ville dreamed of only a tofu wedge dipped in shrimp paste to satiate a drink at dinner time. Is it white tofu or golden fried tofu, and is it good eaten like that, I wonder? Down South, soft tofu is marvelously used to make warm tofu pudding in syrup (tàu hủ nước đường), an addictive dessert that I haven’t seen in the States, and unfortunately, was slowly fading away from even the Saigon food scene as it’s harder to make than it looks. Ah, all this tofu talk’s driven me to the stove and so comes my savory tofu entree: stuffed tofu in tomato sauce (đậu phụ nhồi thịt sốt cà).

– 1 package of yellow fried tofu, pre-cut into 3-cm squares
– 1/4 lb ground pork
– 3 purple onions, or 1/2 sweet onion
– 1/2 tsp chopped garlic
– 1 tsp sugar
– 1/4 tsp salt
– pepper and olive oil
For the tomato sauce:
– 1/2 can diced tomato (I use Hunt’s or Del Monte pre-seasoned with basil, garlic & oregano)
– 3 garlic cloves, half smashed.
– 3 tbs sugar
– 1 tsp salt

Marinade the pork with onion, garlic, pepper, salt & sugar. Gently slit open (from the side) half the tofu squares to stuff the meat in, as you would slice an English muffin.
On medium heat, add enough oil to barely submerge the stuffed tofu pieces. Fry tofu until golden brown on all six sides to make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked. Set aside.
In another skillet, add 1 tbs oil and quickly sauté the smashed garlic cloves until golden as the wonderful smell fills your nose. Add diced tomatoes, salt & sugar to taste. If you like it a bit bland, add 1/2 cup water. Cook on high heat and let the sauce boil for roughly 3 minutes, then pour on top of the fried stuffed tofu.

Scoop a bowl of steamy hot white rice. If it rains, you’ve got yourself a homey happiness.

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