Light and spongy fried tofu puffs soak up umami-rich, flavour-packed tomato sauce in this Vietnamese Tomato Tofu dish. It’s similar to Tofu Fanqie Chaodan, but in this case, the tofu is chewier and the tomatoes are cooked down into a savoury and tangy sauce.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Easy cooking method: This recipe is gently stewed all in one pot, and only needs ten minutes to cook. It holds up well to overcooking too, so don’t worry if you end up leaving it simmering on the stove for an extra half hour. Use storebought pre-fried tofu puffs for minimal prep time.
- Gluten-free: Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua is naturally gluten-free. Serve with Stovetop Jasmine Rice (the traditional side for this dish) to make a complete and satisfying gluten-free meal.
- Vegetarian: Vietnamese tomato tofu is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Tomatoes are naturally rich in umami, so no meat is required to make this dish savoury and delicious.
Ingredients and Substitutions
A few important notes on some of the ingredients used in this Vietnamese Tomato Tofu dish:
Fresh Tomatoes: Use fresh tomatoes for the best flavour. In a pinch, I’ve resorted to using diced tomatoes, but if you go this route, make sure that “calcium chloride” isn’t in the list of ingredients. Calcium chloride is used as a firming additive in some brands of canned tomatoes to help the tomatoes retain their shape, but in this results in a firm, almost-crisp texture, which is not what you want in this dish. We want the tomatoes to be pretty much broken down to form a saucy bed for the tofu.
Tofu Puffs: Tofu puffs are light, airy deep-fried cubes of tofu that are golden on the outside, and spongy and chewy on the inside. They are great at absorbing flavours when simmered in a savoury base like the tomato sauce in this recipe. They can be found next to the regular tofu in most Asian supermarkets. If you can’t find tofu puffs, you can also use any type of fried tofu, which are usually more dense and not quite as absorbent as tofu puffs, but still quite tasty. Just make sure to chop them into 1 to 1.5-inch cubes.
Tip: You can also fry your own tofu at home. (For example, my recipe for Thai Jungle Curry uses homemade fried tofu.) Simply slice firm tofu into 1-inch thick pieces. Cover the bottom of a heavy-bottomed skillet with a generous glug of oil. Pan-fry the tofu pieces in a single layer on medium-high heat, then flip carefully and repeat with the other side until both sides are golden-brown.
Onion Powder: Some recipes for Đậu Hũ Sốt Cà Chua call for sliced onions, and some don’t. I’m not a huge fan of the texture of the cooked onion slices in this recipe, but I do like the flavour that they add. My compromise is to add a bit of onion powder in place of real onions.
Vegetarian Fish Sauce: Fish sauce is used in this recipe and many other Vietnamese dishes, such as Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup. It’s not as salty as regular fish sauce, but adds a similar umami flavour. It can be hard to find, but check your local Viet grocery (also sold online at an exorbitant price). You can substitute 1 tbsp of vegetarian fish sauce with 1/2 tsp MSG (preferred) or 1 tbsp soy sauce (next best option), or just add more salt to taste (last resort).
For a full list of ingredients and quantities, refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Heat oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven, stockpot, or skillet with high sides. Sauté thinly sliced garlic cloves until fragrant.
Step 2: Once garlic is aromatic (but not brown), add tomatoes, salt, veggie fish sauce, onion powder, sugar, and tofu puffs to the pot.
Step 3: Pour over water. Give it a mix and cover with lid. Once bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 4: Turn off the heat. Sprinkle over diced scallions and taste for salt, adding more as needed. Serve warm, with lots of Steamed Rice!
Make Ahead & Storage Tips
Fridge: Store the braised tofu puffs in tomato sauce for up to five days in an airtight container.
Freezer: I haven’t experimented with freezing this tofu dish yet. Let me know the results if you do try freezing it.
To make tofu in tomato sauce, heat oil on medium heat in a Dutch oven, stockpot, or skillet with high sides. Sauté thinly sliced garlic cloves until fragrant. Once garlic is aromatic (but not brown), add tomatoes, salt, veggie fish sauce, onion powder, sugar, and tofu puffs to the pot. Pour over water. Give it a mix and cover with lid. Once bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Sprinkle over diced scallions and taste for salt, adding more as needed. Serve warm.
Tofu is a versatile ingredient that can pair well with a variety of flavors and ingredients, not just tomatoes. Here are some tasty options that go well with tofu in addition to the tomato sauce that I covered in this recipe. Stir-fried veggies, such as in Tofu Scramble. Coconut milk and curry paste, such as in Thai Red Curry. Spicy broth, such as in Stinky Tofu Soup.
In the case of this Vietnamese tomato tofu, the outside of the tofu is not meant to stay crispy after simmering in the sauce. Instead, the magic happens on the inside as the tofu eagerly soaks up the vibrant flavors of the Vietnamese-inspired tomato sauce. The tofu’s spongy texture becomes a delightful vehicle for the tanginess of tomatoes and the subtle sweetness of onion and garlic. So, don’t worry about the lack of crispiness on the outside; the best part of this dish is the chewy and spongy interior of the tofu.
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Vietnamese Tomato Sauce Tofu
Use Imperial/Metric buttons below to toggle between volume vs weight measurements. I recommend weighing out your ingredients for best results.
- Dutch oven, stock pot, or skillet with high sides (a 2- to 3-quart pot is the perfect size)
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- 2 tsp oil
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 lb fresh tomatoes
- 3 cups tofu puffs *can sub with any fried tofu
- ½ tsp salt + more to taste
- 1 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce *can sub with 1/2 tsp MSG or 1 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp sugar
- ½ cup water
- 1 scallion, diced
- Heat 2 tsp of oil on medium heat. Sauté 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic until aromatic, but not brown.
- Add 1 lb tomatoes, 3 cups tofu puffs, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp vegan fish sauce, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp sugar, and 1/2 cup water. Give it a good mix and cover with a lid to bring to a simmer.
- Once bubbling, turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the diced scallion and serve.