Dau Sot Ca Chua: My American-ized, Vegan Take on a Vietnamese Dish

Photo Courtesy of Photography by David L. Clark
One day several weeks ago I googled "tofu and tomato sauce" and found a few different versions of this Vietnamese fried tofu in tomato sauce recipe. I'm not really all that good at sticking to a recipe. That's way too orthodox for my cooking style (unless I'm baking, because that involves chemical reactions, which I understand and respect the importance of precision of)! So I made some changes, obviously omitting the fish fish sauce to make it vegan, substituting organic tamari for that and adding garlic because I really can't help it. I have to use garlic. I also decided to serve it over a bed of steamed cabbage, because I had a crap ton of it, and because tomato sauce and cabbage = delicious.

This dish has made it's way into our regular rotation of recipes, and we eat it at least once a week. Before trying this, I honestly wasn't a huge fan of tofu (also, organic tofu makes a huge difference, for me personally, it doesn't taste like absolutely everything has been processed the hell out). I highly recommend shopping around for tofu and trying different brands to see what you like best. This weekend while we were jaunting around Seattle (more on that tomorrow) I saw a place in the international district that sold fresh, handmade tofu (!!!). Blah, blah, blah, irrelevant stuff.

1 package extra firm tofu (1lb.)
5 medium tomatoes
3 tablespoons tamari (shoyu is fine too)
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups shredded cabbage + 1 tablespoon olive oil
Green onions for garnish, about 1 per serving

1. Press the tofu to remove excess moisture. Do this by wrapping the block in a clean, lint free, kitchen towel and sandwiching between two plates. Do so for at least 20 minutes.
2. Cut the tofu into pieces, I cut them into about 1 inch cubes.
3. Pour oil into a pan small enough to have it be at least 1/2 inch deep, and heat over low-medium heat until a single piece of tofu dropped in deep fries on contact.
4. Fry all of the tofu this way and put into a glass or metal bowl covered with foil to keep it warm.
5. Cut the tomatoes. I first cut them into eighths, and then cut those in half. Then toss them into the leftover oil from the tofu. Immediately add the chopped garlic, tamari/soy sauce, and sugar. Cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
6. While that cooks down steam/sautée the cabbage in oil.
7. Put the tofu into the pan with the tomato sauce and stir to coat. Cook an additional 5 minutes. Add water, tablespoons at a time to the tomato sauce if it becomes too thick ( I haven't had to add water to mine).
8. Serve over cabbage, or steamed rice if you like, both would even be good, and topped with thinly sliced green onions.

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