This is a very simple fried tofu and softened tomatoes (dậu sốt cà chua), seasoned with fish sauce and quickly simmered, topped with sliced scallions and served with hot fluffy rice.
It’s a dish I enjoyed a lot growing up, that mom and grandma could whip up in half an hour. And if you can buy pre-fried tofu, you can probably cut that time in half!
Đậu sốt cà chua is very much one of those at-home-cooking vibes kind of food and one of my favorite comfort foods! A version I had occasionally was tofu filled with ground pork too.
As a kid I ate the meatless version on this page a lot, but never even considered the work my parents or grandma would put into making this (I appreciate it much more now).
Our family was lucky to have delicious meals prepared for them every day of the week. The food was pretty important since it was something that brought our family (now in many different households) together.
A few years after one of my uncles moved out, he came back asking grandma for this recipe–he missed it! Even a super simple dish like this remains out of reach until you know what goes into making it.
Let’s get to it!
The fried tofu
I like to use firm tofu for this, silken ones will be super delicate to handle for this recipe. I also try to get organic tofu whenever possible too!
Cut the tofu into smaller pieces and dry on paper towels or in a basket over the sink for 20-30 minutes. We want to remove the excess moisture from the tofu–this stuff literally is packed in water and is very water-heavy.
Removing the water at this point helpd avoid oil splatter during frying.
Cut the tofu again, into smaller pieces, so there’s more surface area to develop that thicker fried tofu skin.
Deep fry the tofu
I fried these in vegetable oil (any neutral oil will work), keeping the temperature at 300 F (148 C) using my Polder Thermometer. Let the temperature hit 300 F before adding any tofu though.
It should take 2-4 minutes until they brown. Like anyone else in a hot tub, these guys like to bunch together and stick, so move them around a little after adding to the pot.
Were’ just looking to develop a nice, crispy skin on the tofu, without burning it. Once it looks around this level of golden brown, you can pull them out onto a paper towel to soak any excess oil.
I went with bright red roma tomatoes here, they work nicely for this recipe.
The riper they are, the sweeter and more tomatoey they’ll taste.
Cut each tomato into 4 or 8 even pieces each so they’re about bite sized. It just helps them cook down in the pot a bit quicker.
Add everything into the pot: tofu, tomatoes, salt, sugar, tomato paste, water, and fish sauce (yess, fish sauce is everywhere in Vietnamese cuisine!). Cover with a lid, bring to a boil on high heat, then reduce to 30% heat until the tomatoes are cooked. About 10 minutes total.
Taste and reseason
I like to season recipes so there’s room to adjust at the end. You still need seasoning during the cooking process since it gets into the sauce, and the tofu, so the goal is to get it about 80% of the way there.
Once the tomatoes have softened and the liquid has cooked down to a level you’d like, taste the sauce.
If it doesn’t taste as tomatoey as you’d like, now’s the time to add some more tomato paste. Check if it needs more salt or fish sauce now too. If it’s simply not as saucy as you’d like, add 1/4 cup of water and re-season with everything.
You can also stuff the tofu with meat before adding to the pot. See my recipe for pork-stuffed tofu! Whether go the vegetarian route or not, this goes great with fluffy white rice on the side. Here’s how to cook rice in the microwave, or in a rice cooker, with perfect results.
Top with red chili flakes or freshly ground pepper. Serve with rice.
Vietnamese Tofu with Tomato Sauce (Đậu Sốt Cà Chua)
Deep fried tofu
- 1 lb firm tofu pre-fried tofu can be great if you live near a shop that fries these fresh daily
- oil for deep frying
- 5 ripe Roma tomatoes medium size, cut into 4ths or 6ths
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp fish sauce optional, but..not really!
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 c water
- 1 stalk green onion / scallion finely sliced
Deep frying tofu (or buy pre-fried)
- Cut the tofu blocks in half lengthwise (so they're thinner and remove more moisture).
- Press out moisture from the tofu: the tofu on a plate, with a kitchen towel or paper towels above and below the tofu. Cover with another plate to slightly weigh it down to remove moisture for 20-30 minutes. This will help prevent the oil from splattering during frying.
- Fry the tofu. Heat a pot of oil to 300 F, then add 4-6 pieces of tofu at a time to fry until golden brown, making sure to move them around a bit right after adding so they don't stick. It should only be a few minutes each. Remove the fried ones to plate with paper towel to drain excess oil, and continue frying the rest until they're all fried.
- Slice the tomatoes into bite sized pieces, about 4-8 pieces per tomato. It will help them cook quicker too.
- In a new medium sized pot, add all the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil on high heat, then lower to simmer at 30% heat for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are cooked through and the liquid reaches your desired concentration.
- Taste the sauce at this point. See if it needs any more tomato paste, fish sauce, salt or sugar. If the tomatoes aren't super flavorful or ripe to start, I like to add more tomato paste, sugar, and maybe some salt at this point.
- Add the tofu to the pot, toss to combine. Keep mixing for a few minutes so the tofu warms up and soaks up some of the sauce. Retaste and adjust as necessary then top with sliced scallions and serve!