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Crispy Vietnamese Fried Tofu & Spicy Tomato Sauce

Vietnamese fried tofu is a gloriously simple and tasty dish that combines a hot, salty, sweet and sour tomato sauce with crispy tofu.

I have also added air fryer cooking instructions for those that want to avoid frying and it tastes amazing!

Crispy fried tofu with a spicy Vietnamese tomato sauce.

Vietnamese Crispy Tofu

This recipe sees two rarities combined here on my site… The first is a recipe that uses tofu and the second sees me cook a recipe from a book.

A book that so enamoured me, it has me working away on my own Vietnamese variations. My Vietnamese chicken curry, is very much a follow-on from this recipe.

I have been fairly rude about tofu in the past, it was an ingredient I found difficult, principally because it has little flavour. But I have found a admiration for it and this Vietnamese fried tofu recipe is part of me falling in love with this curious ingredient.

It has only started to appear here fairly recently and I am a definite convert! My Chinese hot and sour soup uses it in a very different way. But my sweet and sour tofu, salt and pepper tofu and teriyaki tofu recipe embrace the fried or seared tofu idea.

My gochujang tofu takes another different approach and simmers it in a sauce. This is a similar approach to the one that I use in both my matar paneer and palak paneer recipes!

I even have a breadcrumbed tofu katsu curry, a grilled tofu satay and I crumble it in my tofu noodle stir fry and tofu pasta recipes!

The second rarity is my cooking from a cookbook. This recipe comes from a book called The food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen. 

Overhead crispy fried tofu with a spicy Vietnamese tomato sauce featuring a title overlay.

Frequently Asked Questions

What sort of tofu should I use?

Tofu can be a difficult ingredient to buy if you are uninitiated. This recipe does not aim to initiate you but allows you to make this recipe.

So go to the store and buy extra firm tofu. No flavours, not smoked, not marinated! Just plain old tofu, it will likely be in the refrigerator section.

Should I press the tofu?

Many recipes call for you to press tofu, it was not mentioned in the recipe I used as a source for this. Being the curious soul that I am I did test pressing and it made no discernable difference. It is however important to dry the tofu well!

Can I use fish sauce rather than soy sauce?

The source for this recipe recommends using fish sauce rather than soy sauce. I wanted to keep this recipe vegan and vegetarian so opted for soy sauce and it works wonderfully.

However, the fish sauce variant is exceptionally good and if meat-free is less important to you then you absolutely should give it a try.

Is it better cooked in the fryer or air fryer?

Now that’s a million-dollar question, the tofu is a little “lighter” when cooked in an air fryer. However, frying gives this dish a lovely flavour that is missing in an air fryer.

Close up crispy fried tofu with a spicy Vietnamese tomato sauce.

Serving Suggestions

I typically serve this crispy Vietnamese fried tofu recipe with plain white rice, it is the perfect vehicle to carry the spicy tomato sauce and not fight with it.

But it would also be great with my stir fried broccoli or asparagus stir fry.

It is also particularly good with pickles on the side, adding some pickled daikon or pickled cucumber makes a glorious addition.

If you wanted a salad then something like this carrot and courgette salad would be perfect! It features crispy peanuts and a fantastic Vietnamese-influenced dressing.

Crispy fried tofu with a spicy Vietnamese tomato sauce with fresh coriander.

Equipment Used

I only name-check brands of equipment if I think that they make a material difference to a recipe. But if you have any questions feel free to ask them in the comments section below the recipe.

  • Stovetop. This can be made using an air fryer which negates a few items in this list, I have added an asterisk to the equipment not required if you are cooking in an air fryer.
  • Wok.
  • Thermometer for checking the oil temperature, I use a sugar thermometer. *
  • Kitchen paper. *
  • Slotted spoon. *
  • Kitchen knife.
  • Chopping board.
  • Weighing scales and or measuring jug cups and spoons.
  • Stirring and serving spoons.
Crispy fried tofu with a spicy Vietnamese tomato sauce with fresh coriander.
Yield: 2 Servings

Vietnamese Crispy Fried Tofu Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This Vietnamese fried tofu recipe with a spicy tomato sauce converted this tofu sceptic into an enthusiast, even if it just for this recipe!

Ingredients

  • 350g (12 oz) Extra Firm Tofu
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 15g (½ Thumb Sized Piece) Ginger
  • 50g (⅓ Cup) Shallots
  • 2 Thai Birds Eye Chilli Peppers
  • 250g (2-3 Small-Medium) Tomatoes
  • 3 Spring Onions
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • 2 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce (Use fish sauce if you are not vegan)
  • 1 Tsp Black Pepper
  • Pinch of MSG (Optional)
  • 125ml (½ Cup) Water
  • Fresh Coriander
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Cut the tofu into bite-sized 2.5cm (1") pieces and dry on kitchen towel.
  2. Cut the shallot in half, peel it and then dice the shallot.
  3. Chop chilli as finely as you can.
  4. Peel and mash the garlic.
  5. Peel and grate the ginger.
  6. Cut the tomatoes into a 1cm (½") dice.
  7. Cut the spring onions into 1cm (½") lengths.
  8. Heat 2-3cm (1-1¼") of oil in a wok to 180°C or 350°F and batch fry the tofu until golden, each batch should take 3-4 minutes. When cooked drain on kitchen towel and transfer to a warm oven to keep warm.
  9. Drain off all but about a tablespoon of the oil and turn the heat down to medium-high.
  10. Add the garlic, shallots, chilli and ginger, then stir fry for a minute.
  11. Add the tomatoes, soy sauce, black pepper, sugar and MSG.
  12. When the tomatoes begin to break down add the water and cook for 5-8 minutes to reduce to a sauce.
  13. Throw in the spring onions and cook for a further minute.
  14. Sprinkle over fresh coriander leaves when ready to serve.

Air Fryer Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 200°C or 400°F.
  2. Spray the diced tofu and the base of the air fryer basket with oil.
  3. Add the tofu and cook for 15-17 minutes until nicely crisp making sure that you give the basket a shake every 5 minutes

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

2

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 425Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 25gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 1115mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 6gSugar: 13gProtein: 22g

Calorific details are provided by a third-party application and are to be used as indicative figures only.

Did you make this recipe?

If you made this recipe, I'd love to see what you did and what I can do better, share a picture with me on Instagram and tag me @krumplibrian and tell me how it went!

Mary

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

You have too many ads

Brian Jones

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

I get approximately 3m visitors a year... you are the first person to say this!

Cookery books have no adverts, you do of course have to pay for them. You are welcome!

Kelly Anthony

Thursday 15th of August 2019

I have to admit that I have never tried cooking tofu but after reading your post I'm interested. I think you brought up a good point that it is a simple ingredient and should be cooked that way.

Brian Jones

Friday 16th of August 2019

Give it a try and let me know how you get on :)

Demeter

Thursday 15th of August 2019

The texture that you get from the tofu in this dish is divine! So good!

Brian Jones

Friday 16th of August 2019

Ain't it so!

Danielle Wolter

Thursday 15th of August 2019

i absolutely LOVE fried tofu. This recipes sounds just incredible - I definitely have to try frying the tofu on my own (I usually buy it that way). Loving the tomato sauce with thai chilies and fish sauce - YUM!

Brian Jones

Friday 16th of August 2019

The sauce is superb, completely unlike any other tomato sauce I have tried or found and I love it!

Nickki

Thursday 15th of August 2019

I have to admit I've never tried tofu before - it's not something I've ever fancied trying! But I think this recipe could make me change my mind! That sauce sounds incredible! Pinned and Yummed :-)

Brian Jones

Friday 16th of August 2019

It is an ingredient that I keep on trying with, this is my favourite recipe so far!

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