Vegan bun cha with crispy lemongrass tofu

Bun Cha with Lemongrass Tofu

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour

I first tried bun cha when my husband and I moved to London, England. We lived just down the street from an amazing Vietnamese restaurant, and every time we went there, I’d order the bun cha with tofu. My husband would always try to encourage me to try something else, but this dish is just too good to pass up.

We’ve since moved away from central London, so can’t visit that restaurant nearly as often. But I still get cravings for bun cha all the time, so have been working on recreating it in my own kitchen. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do. I recommend going heavy on the lemongrass, as that’s what gives this dish much of its fresh flavour. I use at least 3-4 stalks.

Ingredients

1 pack vermicelli noodles

Lemongrass tofu

  • 1 pack medium firm tofu
  • 3-4 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-2 spring onions
  • 2 tsp salt

Nuoc cham (sauce)

  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ tsp sugar
  • ½ a chili

Salad

  • Lettuce
  • Cucumber
  • Spring onion
  • Mint
  • Thai basil
  • Coriander
  • Chili

Pickles

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 daikon radish
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Topping

  • 1 lime
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • Crispy dried onion

Directions

Prepare the tofu

Using this method guarantees crispy and golden tofu, every time. I’ve tried making tofu skipping these steps, but it doesn’t turn out nearly as good. It’s well worth spending the extra time.

Salt water soak

Drain the pack of tofu. Cut it tofu into 4 blocks to make it easier to handle. Soak them in a bowl of lukewarm water with a couple teaspoons of salt for 15 minutes.

Drain the tofu

After it’s done soaking, let the tofu drain in a colander for one hour. I usually put another dash of salt on it – it seems to help leech the water out. You can prep the other parts of the recipe while it drains.

Pre-fry the tofu blocks

Heat 2 tbsp of oil over a high heat. Add in the tofu blocks, frying each side until they are golden brown. Remove the tofu and place on a paper towel lined plate to cool.

Make the nuoc cham

Nuoc cham means fish sauce, which is an ingredient added to many Vietnamese dishes for flavour. This is my vegan-friendly version of it. Just mix up the following ingredients, adjusting the amount of water and chili to taste.

3 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp water
1 clove finely chopped or crushed garlic
¼ tsp sugar
½ a chili

Make the pickles

Peel the carrots and daikon radish. Chop them (or use a mandoline) into julienne sized strips. In a jar, combine the carrots and radish with 1 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar.

Prepare the salad

Chop up all the salad ingredients and arrange nicely onto a plate.

Cook the vermicelli

Cook 1 pack of vermicelli noodles according to the package directions. It usually takes about 5 minutes. When done, drain in a colander and rinse the noodles with lukewarm warm to stop them from cooking. The noodles in this dish are served at room temperature.

Roast the peanuts

The peanuts I buy are already roasted, but I like to dry roast them again myself because it gives them a wonderful flavour. Heat the peanuts in a pan over a low flame, stirring frequently so they don’t burn. When they’re brown and smell toasty, they’re ready. Crush them up into small pieces. I use a pestle and mortar, but a Ziploc bag and rolling pin works well too.

Make the lemongrass tofu

    1. Cut the pre-fried tofu blocks into 3 slices each.
    2. Trim off the top and bottoms bits of the lemongrass. Chop 3-4 lemongrass stalks as finely as you can.
    3. Chop 1-2 green onions.
    4. Heat 2 tbsp of oil over a medium heat. Add in the lemongrass and green onions and cook for a few minutes, allowing them to soften slightly.
    5. Add 3 tbsp of soy sauce and mix well.
    6. Place the tofu slices into the pan, making sure each one is coated in the lemongrass mixture. Fry on each side until slightly golden, being careful not to overcook and burn the lemongrass.

Put it all together

Fill a bowl about halfway with noodles. Add in the pickles and salad ingredients. Top with three tofu slices. Drizzle with nuoc cham. Sprinkle with green onion, crispy dried onion, and crushed peanuts. Serve with a lemon wedge for squeezing over top. When ready to eat, mix it all up, and enjoy!

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