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Mom-Cooked Vietnamese: Part 1 (Stuffed Tomatoes)

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Mom-Cooked Vietnamese: Part 1 (Stuffed Tomatoes)

Alice Patis | Dec 2, 2005 07:32 PM

This is the first of a short series of simple, homey Vietnamese dishes that my mom & I cooked when she came for a short visit. Or rather, she cooked while I watched, took photos, and scribbled frantically.

First, a few notes about my mom – she grew up at a time when girls were taught how to cook and sew before they even went to school. And in her case, school even included how to cook and sew. So she’s been cooking Vietnamese dishes for forever. However, she lived in a largely international community for 2+ years (all the years I was growing up, plus more), so she’s picked up a lot of flavors & methods from many other cultures. So while I define her cooking as authentic Vietnamese, there may be some little quirks or things that other Vietnamese cooks don’t do. Oh, and she’s from northern Vietnam, so some dishes in this series might be different if made by central or southern Vietnamese cooks.

My mom never measures, so I tried to measure and document everything (which bugged my mom to no end), so I’m sorry if a rough amount is the best I could do.

The first recipe in this series is a long-time family favorite that we’ve always just called it Ca Chua Nhoi, or literally, Stuffed Tomatoes. I never was sure it was even Vietnamese because it seems similar to western stuffed tomatoes. In fact, before Carb Lover posted a report making this dish, I didn’t think any other Vietnamese ate this dish, as I’ve never seen it at any restaurant.

Stuffed Tomatoes (Ca Chua Nhoi)

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as an entree

4 medium tomatoes*
1/4 cup (?) panko japanese bread crumbs (I used home-made crumbs from whole-grain bread)
vegetable oil, for sauteing

For stuffing:
1/8 of a very large yellow onion, minced
1/2 pound ground meat (I used ground turkey)
1/4 chicken bouillon cube
a lot of black pepper (I counted 20 squeezes from my pepper ball, but it’s a wimpy pepper ball)
scant tablespoon of soy sauce
a small pile (1/4 cup?) chopped cilantro

For sauce:
1/4 chicken bouillon cube
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 small clove of garlic, minced
drizzle of soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
tomato cores and juices

*Note on tomatoes: Choose firm, just barely ripe (almost under-ripe) tomatoes. You want some flavor, but ripe tomatoes will disintegrate during the simmering. Note the pale red color of one of the tomato cores in Photo 1.

Cut tomatoes in half around the “equator” and remove part of the cores. Reserve the cores and juices. Mix stuffing ingredients, divide into 8 portions, and stuff the tomato halves, packing down tightly with your fingers. See Photo 1; also note reserved tomato innards.

Press bread crumbs onto the tops. You want to still see the stuffing through the layer of crumbs. See Photo 2.

Over medium high heat (halfway btw # 4 and 5 on my largest burner), heat just enough oil to cover bottom of sauté pan. When oil is hot, place tomatoes stuffing side down. See Photo 3.

Leave them be until stuffing is dark golden brown, then turn each tomato over. Sorry I didn’t note how long before you flip them. My mom used chopsticks. Yeah right, on slippery round things?! Ok, I would use tongs. See Photo 4.

Pour sauce ingredients into one side of the pan and stir sauce ingredients around without disturbing the tomatoes too much. Turn to medium low (halfway btw 2 and 3 on my burner) and simmer for 10 minutes. When it’s ready, the sauce will turn brown and it will look like Photo 5. Turn off heat and serve.

Photo 6 shows the plated tomatoes. I was supposed to plate them right after I turned off the heat (when I took Photo 5), but we were cooking another dish at that time, so the tomatoes didn’t get plated until like, 20 minutes later. By then, the bottoms were kind of disintegrating. If I had plated them right at Photo 5, the bottoms would still be intact. But they were still just as yummy as I remember!

Stay tuned for the next in the series: Claypot Catfish (Ca Kho To)

Image: http://i16.photobucket.com/albums/b39...

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