Fried tofu sandwiches are served with chilli, coriander and lime or kumquat. VNS Photo Việt Dũng
Nguyễn Việt Dũng
Fried tofu sandwiches have been captivating street-food lovers in HCM City with their irresistible combination of soya and spices -- a remarkable accomplishment for a relatively new entry to Việt Nam’s vast array of street food.
Tofu has always been a big part of Vietnamese cuisine, used to make many dishes to serve varying appetites. Fried tofu sandwiches, however, only picked up in popularity last year, and are certainly one of the more unusual recipes using tofu.
The dish uses tofu bars that are lightly fried beforehand to give an appetising golden glow and allow them to be preserved longer. In fact, many vendors in traditional markets across Việt Nam sell lightly fried tofu bars, which only need to be cooked lightly before they can be eaten.
For the dish, the tofu bars can be steamed or deep-fried to a crisp.
Other ingredients include chili and salt, as well as coriander, a common herb used for salads, fresh spring rolls and many other Vietnamese dishes. A squeeze of lime or kumquat is added to give the dish a light sour tang.
A tofu bar is sliced open in the middle and ingredients are simply added before the two tofu slices are closed together, forming a sandwich.
A fried tofu sandwich is a simple recipe like most street foods in Việt Nam, but lovers of street snacks know that simplicity does not mean unimpressive.
A bite of the sandwich quickly reveals why this dish has become so popular. The soft-textured tofu is light yet rich with soya flavour, and the spicy chilli and salt really make the tofu stand out.
The light sour touch of lime or kumquat stimulates the tongue, while the aromatic coriander lends tofu sandwiches a refreshing taste.
Every bite of the fried tofu sandwich is salty, spicy and sour with a flavourful harmony, ensuring that the dish is never bland.
Some vendors serve additional toppings such as meat jerky and eggs, as well as a dipping sauce to go with the sandwiches.
Bars of tofu can be deep-fried for a crunchy crust, or simply steamed. VNS Photo Việt Dũng
Tân Phát Thành, a vendor of fried tofu in District 10, said that he opened around five months ago after he watched a viral video about a vendor selling the dish in the Mekong Delta.
“The dish originated from Châu Đốc City in An Giang Province. I watched a video on YouTube about a man named Bình, a vendor who sells fried tofu sandwich with steamed tofu, aromatic herb, chili, salt and lime juice,” he told Việt Nam News.
Bình's fried tofu sandwich has become a hot social media sensation thanks to many viral videos from food vloggers since early last year.
The unique recipe, the tofu’s appetising appearance, and Bình’s earnest personality have all helped introduce a new hot snack to food lovers all over Việt Nam.
One can always expect quick-minded locals in HCM City to adapt new and popular street foods from other regions, making further adjustments to the recipes to make them stand out.
When Thành decided to sell the dish in HCM City, he set himself apart by offering to deep-fry his tofu and add optional toppings such as quill eggs, beef and pork jerky. He even prepares his own salt, pepper, chilli and dipping sauce to give his tofu sandwich a unique taste.
“It's usually eaten as an afternoon snack, but also makes for a filling, nutritious breakfast,” he said while preparing takeaways to give to food delivery staff waiting for orders.
Trần Minh Quân, a university student who is a big fan of street food, said that fried tofu sandwiches are unique and more interesting than common snacks such as rice-paper salads and fried fish balls.
“This dish is relatively cheap compared to other snacks, so it’s suitable for students.”
Nguyễn Thị Thủy, a vendor in District 4, sells a wide variety of dishes including stir-fried noodles, snail broth and fried tofu sandwiches.
“People from all age groups can enjoy this dish. Nearby students also love to buy the tofu sandwich from me for a lunch and afternoon snack,” she said.
With its simple recipe, affordable price and great flavour, a fried tofu sandwich is an irresistable street snack, always leaving you hungry for more. VNS
A vendor in District 10 sells fried tofu sandwiches. Many other vendors in HCM City have been quick to adapt this Mekong Delta dish to sell to locals. VNS Photo Việt Dũng