Crispy Tofu with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Golden and Crispy Tofu served with a Vietnamese Spicy Tomato Sauce. This dish will win over both vegetarians and meat-lovers alike! Use either silken tofu or firm tofu.

crispy tofu topped with a spicy tomato sauce on a plate with brown napkin

I had to renew my work visa the other day, which necessitated a trip to the immigration office so that I could be fingerprinted and all the rest. The only thing worse than taking an hour out of my day to visit a government office was posing for my mug shot and realising that I would be stuck with that photo everytime I have to go through passport control in the next 12 months. Someone ought to fix the lighting in those photo booths …

Thankfully, my time at the immigration office was over in 5 minutes (that’s Swiss efficiency for you) and as I walked back to the tram stop, I popped into the Asian grocer nearby to see what I could pick up for dinner that night. It was not a store I had frequently visited before and I was giddy with excitement by how well-stocked it was. I was particularly surprised to see a large selection of different types of tofu, including silken tofu which I had never come across before in Zurich.

In the past few months, I had tried some new tofu recipes from Luke Nguyen’s The Songs of Sapa. However, at the time, I could only find firm or fried tofu in Zurich, which worked well in these recipes but I was anxious to try them with the more soft and tender silken tofu. So I stocked up on half a dozen tubs of silken tofu in preparation for some tofu feasts in the days ahead.

Tonight, I made Luke Nguyen’s Crisp Silken Tofu in a Tomato and Black Pepper Sauce. My mother makes a similar dish which I absolutely love; it’s full of fresh ingredients and easy to make during the week. Though, I seem to only have white pepper in my kitchen, something which I think I’ve picked up from my mum who has an aversion to black pepper.

Luke’s recipe calls for the tofu to be deep-fried before it is added to the sauce. I have tried doing this a few times but my tofu pieces seem to soak up the oil like crazy – maybe it’s the type of tofu I’m using? So I prefer to lightly coat the tofu pieces in cornflour before deep-frying them in order to produce a nice, crunchy coating.

The tomato sauce in this recipe is a rather common sauce in most Vietnamese homes and which is also delicious served with grilled fish or chicken. The sauce is a little salty from the fish sauce, but it is perfect when served with steamed jasmine rice. All in all, it’s a lovely and comforting dish.

I’ve only tried a few recipes from The Songs of Sapa, though I use it more as a guide when I want to recreate some Vietnamese dishes. I think Luke Nguyen is a fantastic ambassador for Vietnam and its cuisine. If you love Vietnamese food, The Songs of Sapa is a must-have in your cookbook collection.


Crispy Tofu with Spicy Tomato Sauce

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  • Author:
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2 to 3

Golden and Crispy Tofu served with a Vietnamese Spicy Tomato Sauce. This dish will win over both vegetarians and meat-lovers alike! Use either silken tofu or firm tofu.


  • vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • 300 g silken tofu
  • about 1 cup cornflour (cornstarch) for dusting
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot or small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1/21 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 35 sprigs of spring onions, cut into 3cm lengths
  • coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


  1. Heat the oil in a small wok or saucepan to 180°C (350°F). You will need about 3 cm (1 inch) depth of oil.
  2. Cut the tofu into about 3 cm pieces and blot them with paper towels.
  3. Place the cornflour (cornstarch) into a soup plate or bowl.
  4. Coat the tofu pieces in the cornflour and shake off any excess.
  5. Deep-fry the tofu for a few minutes until they are crispy and lightly coloured.
  6. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and drain them on a wire rack over a tray or plate.
  7. In a clean saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of oil and add the garlic, shallot and chilli.
  8. Cook for a few minutes until the mixture is fragrant.
  9. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, pepper and fish sauce. Cook for about 5 to 10 minutes on medium-high heat until the tomatoes have softened and the sauce has thickened a little.
  10. Taste for seasoning.
  11. Add the spring onions and coriander.
  12. Arrange the tofu on a plate and spoon over the tomato sauce.
  13. Garnish with some more chopped coriander.
  14. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

Kitchen Notes

To convert from cups to grams, and vice-versa, please see this handy Conversion Chart for Basic Ingredients.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 286
  • Sugar: 8.9g
  • Sodium: 277.9mg
  • Fat: 5.3g
  • Carbohydrates: 53.1g
  • Fiber: 3.4g
  • Protein: 7.1g
  • Cholesterol: 2.3mg

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  1. Anita Menon 22 August 2011

    I love the photos. It seems like a very appetizing dish. The recipe section looks so good.

  2. Julia @ Mélanger 24 August 2011

    Love that book, too. Have it in my collection. Well, actually my husband uses it most. So glad you found a new grocery store ! 🙂

  3. thepatternedplate 24 August 2011

    You don’t need me to sing the praises of this book to you, again!! The few tofu recipes are absolute winners and I wish there were more. I make this recipe everytime I need something easy to make, delicious, light and fresh. I tend to shallow fry my tofu and add some greens at the end…I love this recipe! I love the book! And I love your photos!

  4. Zach D 2 January 2012

    Wow I am super excited about this recipe. I am definitely making it tomorrow. I opened up a package of silken tofu by accident so I am going to make this.

    • eat, little bird 2 January 2012

      Oh wonderful! Please let me know how the recipe works out for you. This recipe is now a regular in our home. Even though the deep-frying of the tofu takes a bit of time, the end result is definitely worth it!

  5. Quynh Anh 11 April 2012

    add in some dill together with coriander and the green onion, it’s good too. 🙂 (I would chop them in a smaller size).

    • eat, little bird 11 April 2012

      Dill? Now that’s a herb I rarely use but I do like it. I would never have thought to use it in Vietnamese cooking (I guess the Vietnamese borrow it from the French) but I think it would work in this dish. Thanks for the tip!

  6. Julia 16 April 2018

    Good idea! Looks very tasty! Thanks for the recipe!