Tuesday, May 29, 2007

WTSIM.. stuffed vegetables - Yong Tau Foo

Yong Tau Foo w/ fermented yellow bean sauce

"Yong Tau Foo" literally means stuffed tofu. At least that's what my mum told me and that's the version I'm sticking to! It's a dish that few Malaysians and Singaporeans who grew up in Malaysia and Singapore will fail to recognise. According to wikipedia, it's a dish of Hakka origins, the Hakkas being one of the many chinese sub-ethnic groups in China. (But I've been told that there is a Hokkien version of this too.)

Originally it is a dish with tofu stuffed with fish mousse (aka fish paste) but my childhood memories of yong tau foo included all sorts of other stuffed vegetables including: okra, eggplant, mushrooms, bitter gourd and chilli. You name it, they've stuffed it. Traditionally, they're served in a clear chicken broth boiled with yellow beans accompanied by a bowl of rice or a plate of dry noodles. Non-traditionally, they're braised with fermented soy bean paste (tau cheong), oyster sauce and garlic or served with a big bowl of soup noodles like curry laksa. (yumm!)

The purists like my mum and dad would make their own fish mousse by blending fillets of spanish mackarel. The key ingredient to fish mousse is ice cold salt water for the texture to be soft but bouncy after cooking. I remember the days my mum and dad would spend hours arguing whether they should be using icy cold water or ice chips to 'get the texture right' so to speak.

Me? Pfft.. I'm no purist. I go for whatever's easy and satisfies my appetite.

So what did I stuff my vegetables with? A mixture of prawns, pork mince, coriander and garlic.

And what was my parents reaction when they heard that I had done that?

Mum: "Eh..? That's Hokkien style. Did you put in some salted fish? and what's with the garlic?"

Dad: "Why didn't you bring home some?"

Yong Tau Foo - the break all rules style.
Serves 6

  1. Oil for pan frying
  2. Lots of patience for stuffing the vegetables
250g fresh prawns, peeled and roughly chopped
250g pork mince (not too lean but not too fatty)
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of roughly chopped coriander (leaves and root)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp white pepper
1 medium pinch of salt

1/4 cup of water chestnuts finely chopped.
  1. Place all ingredients (except the water chestnuts) in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Empty the contents into a large bowl and stir in the water chestnuts.
  3. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30mins while you prepare your vegetables.

I chose to use the following vegetables, but you could use it with pretty much any vegetable you fancy.
  • 1 Red Capsicum*
  • 9 fresh shiitake mushrooms (substitute with other mushrooms, if preferred)
  • 2 lebanese eggplants, sliced length ways approx 2.5cm wide and make an incision in between (but not all the way!)
  • 15 mini fried tofu puffs (substitute with other firm tofu if you wish), make an incision in between each little puffs or slice in half
  • 7 okras, slice the top and make an incision in between
  • 10 snake beans**

Preparing the vegetables:
  1. Capsicum - Remove the stem and chop into quarters.
  2. Mushroom - Remove the stem.
  3. Eggplants - Slice length ways approx 2.5cm wide and make an incision in between (but not all the way!).
  4. Fried tofu puffs - Make an incision in between each little puffs or slice in half.
  5. Okras - Remove the top/stem and make an incision in between.
  6. Snake beans - See below

*Capsicums are tricky to stuffed too, make sure you only use the corners for stuffing. Otherwise the filling will detach itself after it's cooked. ;)

**If you're wondering how I manage to stuff snake beans, take a look at the photo below

snake beans

Cute eh? If you do intend to use snake beans, I suggest you do the following as a pre-prep:
  1. Blanch the snake beans in salted water.
  2. Let cool and then tie away..
The photo quality's a bit of a mismatch, but I think you get the picture :)

  1. Make a small loop.
  2. Place the other end over the loop and then under.
  3. Snip off the loose ends.
Snake beans are a tricky vegetable to use for stuffing. Blanched snake beans are much easier to handle because they won't snap when you try to tie a knot!

For those of you thinking of zapping it in the microwave, DONT! The microwave will only cook parts of the beans and over cook other parts. Plus the juices from the beans drip out from the over cooked parts.. it's just unsightly. Plus you won't get the lovely green that I did from blanching :)

Stuffing the vegetables:

Remove the filling from the fridge. Using a butter knife, spread the filling into the gap of each in each vegetable.

You'll end up with something like this:

stuffed vegetables

Once all the vegetables have been stuffed, heat up some oil in a frying pan and cook the vegetables in batches until the fillings are cooked.

Cooking time depends on what you method you choose to enjoy your yong tau foos.

  1. You like the soup and rice idea or the curry laksa idea, fry the yong tau foo until the filling is cooked and remove from pan.
  2. You prefer the braise method, fry them until the filling is just cooked but try not to over cook the vegetables in the process. You want to let the rest of the vegetables (especially mushrooms, eggplant and tofu puffs) cook in the bean sauce and absorb the flavours.

Pan fried yong tau foo & vegetables


1. Yong Tau Foo Soup

Simply heat up some chicken stock to boiling point, place your yong tau foo into the stock for reheating and serve topped with some chopped spring onions and a dash of white pepper.

2. Braised Yong Tau Foo (the way I like it)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp tau cheo/tau cheong (fermented soy bean paste)
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp corn flour
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp water
10 pieces yong tau foo
  1. Heat oil in a wok or medium sized saucepan.
  2. Lightly fry garlic until fragrant.
  3. Add the soy bean paste and oyster sauce and mix well with garlic.
  4. Add in the chicken stock and mix well.
  5. Add the pieces of yong tau foo and ensure that each pieces is well coated with the sauce. Lower the heat and let the vegetables simmer in the sauce for at least 15mins.
  6. Mix corn flour with water and pour into the wok. Stir until the sauce thickens.
  7. Remove from heat and serve topped with some chopped spring onions and rice.
Serves 2.

  • This recipe makes enough to feed 6 if not more.
  • Don't attempt this unless you have a whole afternoon to spare. It took me the whole of Saturday (afternoon and night) to prepare and we ate it over 3 days in all the suggested methods stated in this post. :D
This month's Waiter, There's Something in My.. Stuffed Fruit/Vegetables (WTSIM) is hosted by Jeanne of Cooksister. Make sure you head over there to check out all the other great stuffed fruits and vegetables ideas.


Anonymous said...

Nice dish. I just realise that I do miss this dish since seeing your photos. Will find time to make some soon.

@JinomTo said...

mmmmm... i want some!!! My mum's coming in 2 weeks, I'll get her to make some...!! hehehe.. amongst other things!!

IronEaters said...

Hi. Thanks for all the nice pics! N it reminds me of my mum's yong tau fu as well,esp the chilli's. gosh, i miss them. mayb i hav to make them soon =)


Jeanne said...

This sounds fantastic I-Ling, and the picture is mouth-watering. And you clearly have a LOT more patience with fiddly food than I have ;-) I had to laugh at your parents' comments - they're the same the world over... I also love the knotted beans - waaaaasy cool! Thanks for a great WTSIM entry :)

SteamyKitchen said...

Wow thats cool how you stuff the green beans!

ilingc said...

Judy Leese: Thanks Judy. I missed it too.. that's what prompted me to make it :)

Ali: Yeah she got time to make for you or not? Maybe you should just make your own like me!

ironeaters: Hi San. Yong Tau Foo is a very memorable dish isn't it. I'm not a big fan of the chillis so I never really make them but mushrooms.. gosh.. I love my mushrooms :)

Jeanne: Hiya. I can only put it down to the things I do to satisfy my cravings. :) The beans are my favourite too!

SteamyKitchen: They're pretty cool aren't they? I'm very proud of how it turned out actually. I'm not sure how I came up with them though. I think I saw mum did it that way once.

Unknown said...

What an absolutely awesome post. Puts my take-away yong tau foo to shame ;-)

ilingc said...

mellie: Thanks mellie :) Your takeaway ones are more authentic than mine given that I cheated a bit with the filling.
I couldn't bear the idea of making crappy fish paste so I went with the prawns and pork mince instead. :D

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your recipe. I've been looking for Young Tau Foo recipe, and referenced yours in my blog at hx125.blogspot.com.

ilingc said...

hx: Hope it's to your taste. I know that some ytf purist may scoff at the lack of fish in the filling but I just find it easier to use prawn and pork mince instead of stuffing up the fish paste. :)