Several people who read the post on Diep Tran and Good Girl Dinette remarked how tasty her tofu snack looked. And for those of you who’ve eaten it, you know that it’s true. I couldn’t agree with you more!
I kept thinking about it yesterday so I made my own version of it. I figure that what Diep was riffing on was a classic northern Vietnamese fried tofu dish in which the crisp tofu was retrieved from the oil and simmered in diluted fish sauce and green onion. The tofu sucks up all the seasonings and gets coated with the green onion. My mother made deep-fried tofu simmered in scallion (dau hu chien tam hanh la) on a regular basis for our family dinner. She still makes it today.
The classic Viet tofu dish is made with chunky pieces of tofu. For Good Girl Dinette's I cut the tofu into thin squares. Here they are hot from the wok:
And Diep’s rice cakes was a terrific mini-take on com nam, compressed rice logs. My father made that for us when we were kids, shaping hot rice into baguette-like fat logs. He’d slice it up and we’d eat it out of hand, pressing some caramelized minced pork on top of it. Oh my, what fond memories of my chubby youth. (The tofu and rice recipes are in Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, pages 191 and 241; the pork is on page 131.) This is what I made for the crisp scallion tofu:
I combined that knowledge of classic Viet cooking and what I know about frying tofu to come up with this rendition.
You can fry the tofu in advance and reheat it in the toaster oven at 325F to 350F till gently sizzling. Use leftover rice and reheat it in the microwave oven. If for some reason your tofu is bigger than your rice cake, cut the tofu in half. Can you save calories by pan-frying the tofu? Sure, but the pieces wouldn't be as scrumptious.
Crispy Scallion Tofu and Rice Cakes
Yield: Serves 2 to 3 people
- A block of firm or extra firm tofu, about 1 3/4 inches wide and 3 to 3 1/2 inches long (about 6 ounces total)
- About 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups very hot or just boiled water
- 2 cups cooked rice (long, medium or short grain)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 slender green onions, white and green parts, cut into rings
- Canola oil for deep-frying
- Cut the tofu crosswise into 6 pieces to yield squares. Put into a shallow bowl. Dissolve the salt in the water and pour over the tofu. Set aside to season for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, sprinkle a bit of salt over the rice to season it. If your rice is dryish, sprinkle on some water. Cover with plastic wrap and reheat in the microwave. If the rice is freshly cooked, skip the reheating! You want rice that’s a little on the soft side so it will stick together well.
- Shape the rice into a 6 inch log atop a piece of parchment. Use a silicon spatula or wet fingers. As if you’re making a sushi roll, roll it up, applying firm pressure to ensure that the rice is well squished together. It should resemble a fat sausage in size and shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.
- The tofu should be ready by now. Pour off the water, set the tofu atop a dry dishtowel or paper towel t drain for 10 minutes. In the mean time, combine the fish sauce or soy sauce and water in a small saucepan, like a butter warmer. Bring to a boil over medium heat, add the green onion, and cook for 1-2 minutes until the green onion has wilted. Transfer to a small bowl to cool.
- Heat 1 inch of oil in a wok, deep skillet or saucepan t 360-375F on a deep-fry thermometer. Right before frying, blot the two dry one last time. Fry the tofu in 1 or 2 batches, without crowding, until crisp and golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain atop paper towel and let cool for a few minutes.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the rice. Wet the knife blade, then cut the rice log in half crosswise, right through the parchment. Then cut each section into thick rounds, each about 1/3 inch thick. The ones in the center will be prettiest. You need 6 rounds. Save the extra rice for something else. If a rice cake falls apart, wet your fingers and smoosh the grains together.
- To assemble, put a piece of tofu atop a rice cake. Top with the scallion, leaving most of the liquid behind. If you want extra oomph, drizzle on extra liquid. Enjoy.