Tofu With Fresh Tomato Sauce

Serves 4 as multi-dish meal.

Note: Tofu with fresh tomato sauce is common in homes and casual restaurants throughout Vietnam. Think of it as the country’s spaghetti marinara. With tofu cubes that are crispy on the outside and meltingly tender within, paired with a deeply flavorful tomato sauce, this comfort food creates a simple yet satisfying meal, especially when plated alongside some vegetables. From “Vegetarian Viêt Nam,” by Cameron Stauch.

• 1/2 oz. dried shiitake mushrooms

• 1 lb. firm tofu

• 1/4 c. to 1/2 c. cooking oil

• 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

• 1 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

• 3/4 lb. ripe plum tomatoes, finely chopped (1 3/4 c.)

• 1 tbsp. soy sauce

• 1/2 tsp. sugar

• 1/4 tsp. salt

• 1⁄3 c. water or vegetable stock

• 1/4 c. thinly sliced green onions

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 tbsp. roughly chopped fresh cilantro

Directions

To prepare the mushroom powder: Place dried shiitake mushrooms in a spice grinder and grind to a powder. Makes about 1/4 cup (you will only use 1/4 teaspoon).

To prepare the tofu: Drain off the liquid from the tofu package and cut the tofu into 1 1/2-inch cubes. When cutting tofu into cubes, try to keep it close together, in a rectangular shape, as it is easier to blot dry and press out the water that way.

Line a large plate with a double thickness of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Arrange the tofu cubes on top. Cover with a second folded, clean kitchen towel or a double layer of paper towels. Leave the tofu to drain for 10 minutes as you prepare the rest of your ingredients.

Set a paper towel-lined plate or tray next to the stove. In a wok or skillet, heat 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup cooking oil (depending on size of pan) over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, carefully add the tofu. Use caution as the oil may sputter. Cook tofu cubes for 3 minutes on the first side, then 2 to 2 1/2 minutes for each of the other sides, ensuring that each side of the cube colors and crisps. Transfer to the lined plate when it’s puffy, crispy and golden.

To prepare the sauce: Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Toss in the tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, salt and mushroom powder.

Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks down. Add 1/3 cup water or stock, and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the tofu, green onions and black pepper and cook for another minute to coat the tofu lightly with the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 265

Fat 22 g

Sodium 240 mg

Carbohydrates 9 g

Saturated fat 4 g

Total sugars 3 g

Protein 12 g

Cholesterol 0 mg

Dietary fiber 2 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ carb, 2 medium-fat protein, 2 ½ fat.