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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Yong Tau/Tow Foo (Chinese Stuffed Tofu)

Yong Tau Foo 1

Don't see any tofu you say? Well, yong tau foo (Chinese stuffed tofu) was created in the 1960s in Chew Kuan restaurant as a dish of only stuffed tofu, and now can mean any of a variety of stuffed vegetables. It is a popular dish in Malaysia and Singapore. The stuffed tofu and vegetables may also be served with a clear soup and noodles.

I had frozen the cha ca (Vietnamese fish paste) my youngest aunt had given me a few months back. For the recent death anniversary dinner of my ba noi (paternal grandmother), I decided to defrost the cha ca and stuff it. But instead of making my usual Dau Hu Nhoi Cha Tom voi Sot Chao Ot (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste-Stuffed Tofu with Fermented Bean Curd Chili Sauce), I remembered Rasa Malaysia had stuffed okra and chili peppers. It was so gorgeous that I decided to prepare it that way as well, but substituting the chili peppers with sweet baby bell peppers. I also had some Brussels sprouts sitting around, so I halved those and stuffed them as well.

I haven't made cha ca since I was 12 years old, so you'll have to wait for that recipe. Or maybe that's just as well because I remember adding baking soda to fluff up the fish paste. Then I got clever and added more baking soda because that would make the fish paste even fluffier right? Well, it did, but it also made the fish paste incredibly bitter. So for now, you can either buy from the store, or use my recipe for shrimp paste. You can find fish paste at most Asian grocery stores either in the fresh seafood counter or frozen. Depending on the variety of fish, the paste may be either pink, pale gray, or gray.

Yong Tau Foo 2

Yong Tau/Tow Foo (Chinese Stuffed Tofu)
Inspired by Rasa Malaysia

You'll need:
Fried tofu or make your own using my recipe for Dau Hu Chien (Vietnamese Fried Tofu)
Baby bell peppers
Brussels sprouts

Use 1 lb store-bought fish paste, or for shrimp paste, you'll need:
1 lbs shrimp, peeled, deveined
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt, and adjust to taste
2 tsp sugar, and adjust to taste
a few dashes of fish sauce

For sot chao ot (Vietnamese fermented bean curd and chili sauce), you'll need:
3 cubes chao (fermented bean curd)
1 tblsp sambal oelek or any chili sauce of your choice, or less depending on your spicy tolerance
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water

Clear pork broth, or any other broth of your choice
Fresh ramen or chow mein noodles
Baby bok choy or any other vegetables of your choice

If you're making shrimp paste, peel and devein the shrimp. Place shrimp in a colander and sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt, mix thoroughly and allow to drain. In a food processor, grind shrimp with garlic, 2 tsp sugar, and a few dashes of fish sauce, until a smooth paste is formed. You may need to add a little bit of cold water for the shrimp paste to smooth out and become "fluffy." Take a small chunk of the shrimp paste and pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to cook. Taste and adjust salt and sugar if necessary. Set aside.

Clean okra. De-seed baby bell peppers. Remove bruised outer leaves of Brussels sprouts. Split vegetables in half but not all the way through.

Stuff vegetables with fish or shrimp paste.

Lay the tofu and vegetables in a steamer tray and steam for about 10 minutes until the shrimp or fish is cooked. It's OK if they're not fully cooked because you're going to be cooking them further.

Meanwhile, you can prepare the sot chao ot (Vietnamese fermented bean curd and chili sauce). In a small pan on medium-low heat, mash 3 cubes of bean curd, 1 tblsp of sambal oelek, 1/2 tsp of fish sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/2 cup water. Mix thoroughly. Adjust seasonings accordingly. Turn the heat down to low and let simmer until sauce thickens.

By this time, the steamed vegetables should be cooked. Not so appetizing eh? I sort of overstuffed each vegetable to use up all the fish paste. Don't worry, they're gonna look nicer in a bit after I pan-fry them.

Yong Tau Foo 3

Drizzle a bit of oil into a saucepan on medium heat. Pan-fry both sides of tofu and vegetable pieces until golden.

Yong Tau Foo 4

Arrange on a plate and drizzle sot chao ot on top. Serve with rice or noodles.

If serving with noodles: Make a light pork broth for the soup. Boil fresh ramen or chow mein noodles. Quickly blanch the baby bok choy in the noodle water, and set aside until ready to assemble.

Yong Tau Foo 5

Drizzle extra fermented bean curd chili sauce and toss.

Yong Tau Foo 6


My other tofu recipes:
Chinese Hot and Sour Soup  
Dau Hu Chien (Vietnamese Fried Tofu)  
Dau Hu Nhoi Cha Tom voi Sot Chao Ot (Vietnamese Shrimp Paste-Stuffed Tofu with Fermented Bean Curd Chili Sauce)  
Dubu Chorim (Korean Fried Tofu with Soy Sauce)  
Ma Po Tofu (Chinese Pockmarked Old Lady's Tofu)  
Soon Dubu Kimchi Chigae (Korean Soft Tofu and Kimchee Stew)
Taiwanese Popcorn Tofu  
Thit Heo Kho Voi Dau Hu (Vietnamese Braised Pork with Tofu)

1 year ago today, Ma Po Tofu (Chinese Pockmarked Old Lady's Tofu).


  1. Definitely prefer this to fermented bean curd :P

  2. This is one of our weekend staples, but always bought. I learned how to make this dish when I was in school. We had to pound the fish flesh with salt water until it turned into a paste. After a 2-hour class, I spent the rest of the day in a fishy-haze :(
    Yours looks amazing, though!

  3. I have to say that yours look soo good. Very lovely griled! Especially with the noodles!

  4. Tigerfish,
    What? Are our tastebuds not in sync on that? I love both.

    Oh, that sounds like too much work. I remember scraping the fish off the bones and then pureeing it in a food processor.


  5. I love cha ca but haven't thought to stuff fried tofu or vegetables with it. I particularly liked the way you served the stuffed tofu with the noodles.

  6. Christine,
    You've never stuffed tofu? That's one of the dishes my mom always makes. Usually with pork though. Sometimes in a soup too. The okra and bell pepper was new for me, although I don't know why it wouldn't have occurred to me before. Try it! You'd have much nicer photos too.


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