Tag Archives: Nuoc Cham

Pho with Tofu and Mushrooms

This pho looks good in 2 different lights – the tofu doesn’t only reflect the flavour of its co-habitants in the bowl, it seems to reflect different colours of its surroundings…

This vegetarian pho recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I received at a Pho cookery class in Acton. Sadly at this otherwise excellent class, mushrooms were my only replacement for chicken. If you feel that even as a vegetarian you nonetheless do need some protein, add some tofu (raw or marinated) as I have done above. Also, seitan mock meats made from flour can be delicious for as a replacement.

Recipe (serves 4):

2 litres of vegetable stock
400 grams tofu
1 onion sliced
1 carrot sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 cm stick of cinnamon
24 coriander seeds
4 star anise
20g fermented black beans
200g green cabbage or choux chinois
300g rice noodles
2 tbs thin soy sauce
1 bunch coriander, stems chopped and separated off

Poach the tofu in the vegetable stock for about 5 minutes. Whilst you are doing this, toast the star anise, cinnamon and coriander seeds dryly in a frying pan or wok until they start to spit and become fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Toast the ginger and garlic in the frying pan til charred.

Add 1 tbps of oil to the frying pan and brown the onions. Remove tofu from the stock and set aside. Add onions, carrots and coriander stems to the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, fry the tofu in abut 2 tablespoons of oil until it has gone golden brown and cripsy on the edges.

Add the soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to the stock. Strain the stock and discard solids. Finely slice the cabbage and chop the coriander more roughly.

Place the noodles, tofu, cabbage, shitake mushrooms (with their stock to taste), salted beans in a bowl, pour over the boiling stock and sprinkle on the chopped coriander. Add dipping sauce – nuoc cham – to taste.

And here is a nuoc cham recipe from the same cookery school for good measure –

3 Thai bird’s eye chillies
2 sliced garlic cloves
3 tbsps sugar,
170 ml warm water (or less)
1 I/2 tbsps fresh lime
5 Tbs thin soy sauce
2 Tbs finely shredded carrot for garnish

Slice chillies at an angle and keep on third aside for the garnish.

Pound the remaining chillies to a paste in a pestle and mortar with garlic and sugar.

Transfer to a small bowl and add water, lime juice and soy sauce and stir well.

Set aside for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining chillies and carrot as a garnish


Fried Tofu with Carrot and Lemongrass Stir Fry


The chopped carrots, ginger, lemongrass, chilli and beansprouts await the hot wok. The soy, chilli and lime dip sits on the table, waiting for a bit of tofu, which is meanwhile crisping and turning golden in the pan.

Today’s late lunch consisted of simply done, shallow fried tofu cubes with a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce, and a little stir fry of carrots and beansprouts done with Vietnamese style flavouring – lemongrass, chilli, lime, ginger and peanuts. It was a very quick one to do (depending on how much patience you have to chop up the carrot into tiny batons), but delicious with fresh rice.

Resisting the temptation to put the tofu in with the vegetables to stir fry is important. Most Vietnamese dishes work with one main component, which is then complemented by several other different dishes at the table. This means that the flavours of each dish are very concentrated. This is ever more important when using tofu, which is tends to absorb rather than impart flavour. And from my cooking trials and errors, I’ve learnt you should always treat vegetables with a bit of respect – don’t just mix everything you’ve got left in the fridge. That normally ends up gross. Would you chop up and fry 5 different types of meat together?

Also, I apologise for my poor quality photos since the Banh Chung recipe was posted up – I’ll be retrieving a better camera soon!

Recipe (Serves 2):

For the Tofu

Chop tofu into 2 cm cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the tofu on a medium heat, turning so that all sides go golden brown and slightly crisp.

For the Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon water
half a clove of garlic, minced
Half a red chilli, minced
Half a teaspoon of sugar
Half a tablespoon of chopped peanuts
Mix all indredients together, adding peanuts at the end as a garnish.

For The Stir Fry

1 large carrot
200 grams beansprouts
1 lemongrass stalk, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
Half a red thai bird chilli, minced
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon oil
Several sprigs of mint or coriander.

Heat the oil on a medium heat and then add the onion and fry for a minute before adding the garlic, ginger, chilli, and lemongrass. Fry for another minute then turn to heat up high and add the carrots. Also add the soy sauce, water and lime juice at this point.

Stir fry for 2 minutes, then add the bean sprouts for another two minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and serve with a mint or coriander garnish.