There's nothing to it, really. Just tofu, water, fish sauce, a little sugar and green onions. That's it. But the taste is rich and soulful. It's a dish I could eat every night for a year and not tire of. The key is to use fresh cakes of tofu and to fry the tofu up yourself before you add it to the simmering water mixture. If you wanted to avoid the fish sauce, I suppose you could substitute Maggi seasoning or soy sauce for a slightly different taste. If you think you don't like fish sauce or tofu, try this dish first.
This recipe is adapted from Andrea Nguyen's Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. She doesn't add sugar, but I find I like a little sugar to balance the fish sauce. Maybe it's a result of spending too many years in Central Java, where they like their food sweet. Anyway, give this a try.
Dau Hu Chien Tam Hanh La
1 1/2 pounds tofu, preferably the fresh blocks available in Asian markets, or direct from the makers
neutral vegetable oil for deep-frying the tofu
1/2 cup water
2 to 3 TBS fish sauce
1 to 2 tsp sugar
3 scallions, green part only, chopped
Cut the tofu into cubes, approximately one inch. Deep fry until crisp.
In a saucepan or claypot combine water, fish sauce and sugar. Heat until simmering. Add the fried tofu, stirring to expose all sides to the liquid, cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Uncover, stir in the scallions, and serve.
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