My pal Alix set up a weekly dinner share with myself and our friend Susan, each week we make 3 servings of a meal and then meet up at one of our houses to swap food. So each week I get two amazing cooked meals that all I need to do is reheat, which is really great when I’m exhausted after my commute home and don’t feel like cooking.
This week I decided to make Vietnamese food aka the food I most miss from New Orleans. There are some good places here in L.A. don’t get me wrong but my favorite place to eat in New Orleans is a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Tau Bay. They make my favorite dish, Banh Hoi Dau Hu Chien, which I have yet to find here. Banh Hoi Dau Hu Chien is steamed vermicelli patties and deep-fried tofu topped with roasted peanuts, crispy shallots, and green onions served with a basket of fresh lettuce, assorted herbs & fish sauce (blech!) sauce on the side which I always sub for peanut sauce.
I’ve never made my own Vietnamese food so I figured it was best to start simple and try to make Bun Dau Hu Chien (or Bun Chay as it’s commonly called) which is a very simple Vietnamese noodle salad with fried tofu. This weekend I dragged Scott out to Woori Market in Little Tokyo mall in Downtown L.A. so I could get some ingredients to try to make some Vietnamese food at home. The trip was a success, I found some fresh rice noodles, mung bean sprouts and rice paper wrappers (I’ll be making fresh spring rolls soon).
Here’s the very simple recipe I used (borrowing from The Kitchn and Pham Fatale). I should start with a disclaimer that this dish usually features cucumber and cilantro which I am not the biggest fan of. If you like those, feel free to add some.
Ingredients (Serves 4):
16 oz rice stick noodles
1 lb of super firm tofu (I used the 20oz Wildwood Sprouted Tofu)
2 TBSP canola oil
2 carrots, shredded
1 head of green leaf lettuce
3 cups mung bean sprouts
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Fresh mint, finely chopped
Mock Fish Sauce
5 TBSP boiling water
4 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP Bragg’s
2 TBSP soy sauce
3 TBSP rice vinegar
2 tsp lime juice
Prepare according to package instructions. Drain and rinse 2-3 times under cold water.
Cut tofu into bite size cubes. Heat oil in cast iron skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides (3-5 minutes per side)
Once you’re done frying your tofu, add chopped green onions to the same pan and fry for 3-5 minutes until slightly wilted.
Chiffonade about 8 leaves of your lettuce and set aside.
Place bean sprouts into enough boiling water to submerge them. Let sit for 2 minutes and drain water.
Mock Fish Sauce:
Dissolve brown sugar in boiling water. Let sit until cooled to room temperature. Add Bragg’s, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and lime juice and stir until combined.
Portion noodles into bowls. Add lettuce, carrots, and tofu. Add shallots and peanuts to garnish. Pour 1/4 cup of sauce over ingredients and toss. Add fresh mint to taste.
This dish is really versatile and you can add other things in lieu or addition to the fried tofu including fried spring rolls and mock meats. I’m very happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to experiment with other add ins. Now I just need to find vermicelli patties here in L.A., and try my luck at making Banh Hoi Dau Hu Chien!