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Vietnamese "Tomato Stuffing" recipe (long)

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Vietnamese "Tomato Stuffing" recipe (long)

Carb Lover | Aug 31, 2005 03:02 PM

So I went tomato picking this past weekend and got carried away and came home w/ 40 pounds of the most tasty tomatoes (Early Girls, San Marzanos, Beefsteak) I've ever had of these varieties. I love EGs in their raw form so have been eating them w/ salt and using them in gazpacho. Also used them for my own tomato sorbet concoction and was very happy w/ the results (which I will report on later).

I'm not generally crazy about beefsteaks, but these are the best I've ever had. Flavorful, not mealy, very juicy inside. Since these were the largest of my bunch, I thought I'd make one of my comfort foods from childhood that my family simply calls "tomato stuffing." From the photo below, it's clearly not American bread stuffing but really a stuffed tomato. Unlike some other Viet dishes, this one is very easy to make even for those who've never made a Viet dish before and doesn't take many special ingredients. If you've made meatballs or meat loaf or stuffed peppers, then you can do this too!

This was my first time making it and I just used some general instructions that my mom gave me over the phone in conjunction w/ my kitchen instincts. This is my Viet-American version but tasted clearly reminiscent of mom's. Mine were overstuffed, so next time I would reduce the stuffing (or increase the tomatoes) so that the stuffing is mounded slightly beyond the tomato. Here's the general recipe (w/ meat reduced) as best as I can outline.

CL's Tomato Stuffing
Serves 4-6

8 med-large tomatoes that are thick-skinned, ripe but not too soft, and sit flat (I used beefsteak)
1.5 lbs. ground pork
1 c. cooked mung bean thread noodles, roughly chopped (add less if you want smoother texture)
1/2 c. diced mushrooms (I used rehydrated shiitake but buttons or crimini would be fine)
1/2 c. carrot, grated
1-2 scallions, chopped
handful of cilantro, minced
1 egg (optional)
salt and pepper
fish sauce
neutral oil

In large bowl, place pork, noodles, mushrooms, carrot, scallions, cilantro. Add full dose of pepper and a pinch salt. Finish salty seasoning w/ fish sauce, anywhere from 2-4 tsp. Using hands, mix thoroughly but don't overwork. If binding agent is needed, then mix in one egg. I may add tapioca starch next time for smoother texture. If you're really good, you'll fry up a sample to taste and adjust for seasoning. Let mixture marinate while you prep tomatoes.

Slice the top off the tomatoes, about 1/2" down from the crown, past the green core. Reserve for garnish, if desired, otherwise dice the edible parts up. With a soup spoon, carefully scoop out the soft flesh and seeds and reserve in a bowl, making sure to maintain a firm "bowl" w/ no tears. Season the inside w/ S&P. Fill w/ meat filling. Make sure to compress firmly but not overstuff or tear. Fill til you get a slightly rounded mound on top and filling is equally distributed among tomatoes.

Pan-frying the top is the traditional method, but my mom now broils and so did I for ease. In oven-safe pan or baking dish greased w/ about one TB of neutral oil, place stuffed tomatoes snugly and broil til tops are dark brown and crispy. Remove from oven and transfer to saute pan or dutch oven, if necessary, w/ lid. Pour in reserved flesh that has been roughly chopped. Add in juice; you can strain the seeds out if you wish. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper. Bring to boil and reduce heat to gentle simmer and cover. After 15 min., add some fish sauce to sauce to taste. If too tart, then add pinch sugar. Cook til meat is done (I just cut one open to check). Leave uncovered to reduce juices.

When done, remove to serving platter. Taste sauce, readjust seasoning, and reduce more, if desired. Pour sauce into serving dish and garnish w/ sliced scallions and cilantro sprigs. Serve w/ rice and wilted greens (eg, water spinach or rau muong). I had lemony sorrel that worked well. More fish sauce or nuoc cham can be passed at table, if needed.

PS. The trick is to cook the meat through w/o having the tomatoes break down to the point of falling apart. All of mine sort of fell apart except for two (cleverly placed in front), so that's why you shouldn't overstuff and should broil as long as possible. Even if it falls apart, it will still taste good! Just make sure you get great tomatoes!

Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

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