lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong

Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong {vegan}

Everything about life in Vietnam sits right with me. Family is number one, life is simple and there's food everywhere, always. (My body got so used to eating over there that I really struggled with my 3 day New Year detox that I've just completed! I was starving the entire 3 days.) Of course there's the usual breakfast, lunch and dinner to be had, but also there's the green mango with chilli salt to snack on whilst you contemplate lunch, that cob of corn on the beach that just needed to be eaten, because. That bowl of coconut ice cream, served in a coconut shell, cause how pretty is that?! And of course, when down in the village one has to eat freshly picked fruit- non-stop. Don't they? And don't even get me started on the fruit shakes, made with loads of fresh fruit, a bucket-load of ice, condensed milk (a Vietnamese staple) and a spoonful of sugar, even though the sign claims 'no sugar added' -haha. We drank our body weight in these babies on the days we were in Saigon, you can be assured of this.

Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong
Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong

Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong

You know the funny thing though, of all the wonderful food we ate in Vietnam, the best food was still made by my mother-in-law on the few days we spent in Si's family village about 4 hours south of Saigon. Everything the kids ate in the city was compared to what they are used to when at Ba Noi's (grandma's) house, here in Perth. 'Nope, these spring rolls aren't as good as Ba Noi's.' 'I don't like these banh xeo as much as Noi's, mum'. It was kinda funny really and just shows us how lucky we really are.

The first time Si and I visited Vietnam nearly 9 years ago now, Si's mum was visiting from Perth too and I think my vegetarianism threw her just a little (there aren't many people who eat strict vegetarian all year round, in Vietnam. They usually only do for Buddhist festivals, etc). Fast forward 9 years and she is now quite proud of her vegetarian dishes, and rightly so. Of my favourites, her lemongrass tofu is way up there and we enjoyed it numerous times while down in the village. It's beyond simple to prepare, even though I can still never get mine quite as tasty as hers and is basically just two ingredients- tofu and lemongrass. Eaten alongside bowls of steamed rice, chilli greens and a dipping sauce or two it makes the perfect light summer meal, and even my meat-loving husband comes back for seconds...

Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong
Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong

I've tacked a bunch of photos from our trip below and will share more in the coming weeks along with a few more stories.
Enjoy xx Emm

P.s Cool news just in! I'm pretty darn excited about my little Q&A over on Food & Wine today! Whoop whoop!


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Lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong

lemongrass tofu with chilli kang kong
Kang kong is also known as water spinach. You can find it at some Asian grocery stores, or you could always substitute with regular spinach, kumara (sweet potato) leaves or bok choy. Whenever I get my hands on lemongrass, I finely chop all of it up and store it in zip-lock bags in the freezer. You can use it straight from frozen. When chopping lemongrass, just use the tender bulb end (if using homegrown stuff like me, you can use more of the stalk than store-bought as it's way more tender), reserve the green tips to use in herb teas (add boiling water and steep, it's supposed to be a great natural relaxant before bed).
Serves 4 as a light meal

300g firm non-gmo tofu, patted dry +  cut into 1cm thick slices
olive or grapeseed oil, to shallow fry
1/4 cup finely chopped lemongrass (from 1-2 stalks)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

a huge handful of kang kong (water spinach), roughly chopped into 5-8cm lengths
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 birds eye chilli, finely chopped
a splash of gluten-free soy sauce

steamed jasmine rice, chilli slices, soy sauce and limes to serve

Heat a large frying pan over high heat and fry the tofu in a little oil until golden on all sides. Take your time with this stage, it usually takes a good 8-10 minutes. Season tofu well with plenty of sea salt and black pepper. Add nearly all the lemongrass to the pan (reserve 1-2 teaspoons to add later) along with a touch more oil if needed and cook, stirring everything around for another minute or two until the lemongrass is lovely a crispy. Add in the reserved lemongrass and stir a few times before serving with the rice, kang kong and extra chilli and soy sauce.

To prepare the kang kong, heat a little oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add garlic and chilli, stir-fry briefly before adding the kang kong. Stir constantly for 20-30 seconds or until it starts to wilt. Add a touch of soy sauce and stir well. Serve hot.

I like to squeeze half a lime into a small bowl of soy sauce to serve alongside the tofu. People can either dip their tofu into it, or pour a little over their rice.

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  • Blue Apocalypse
    January 8, 2014 at 2:29 am

    I love eating kang kong, it's one of my favourite vegetables.

    Beautiful photos from Vietnam! Look forward to seeing more πŸ™‚


    • emma
      January 8, 2014 at 7:08 am

      Thanks Ai-Ling! xx

  • Jasmine Ann
    January 8, 2014 at 3:47 am

    Ah, food never tastes as good as grans though does it? My man makes chicken pesto pasta and even though I use the exact ingredients there's just something missing from mine, it's love he says the romantic sucker! Loving the photographs, just gorgeous especially that noisy black and white one that's last. Now to go buy some tofu…

    • emma
      January 8, 2014 at 7:07 am

      I have to agree with your husband, I reckon it's love too πŸ™‚
      That last B&W photo has the kids 100 year old grandma in it, I love it too xx

  • Sini | my blue&white kitchen
    January 8, 2014 at 7:07 am

    Beautiful captions of your visit to Vietnam! I got hungry just by looking at the pics and thankfully you provided us with a mouth-watering recipe πŸ™‚
    Just read the Q&A over on Food & Wine before I headed to your blog. Congrats! A great interview.

    • emma
      January 8, 2014 at 7:40 am

      Cheers Sini! I'm pretty stoked with that feature xx

  • london bakes
    January 8, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Breathtaking photographs and a killer recipe to go with them. I love seeing a glimpse into a culture, and a cuisine, that I really know very little about.

    PS love that picture of you in the middle there, such a beauty!

    • emma
      January 8, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Aww, thanks Kathryn! It's not very often that I'm on that side of the lens πŸ˜‰

  • vegeTARAian
    January 8, 2014 at 9:53 am

    That dish sounds delish – I love the simplicity of Vietnamese food. Looks like you had a wonderful trip, your photos are brilliant. Also loving your new Vietnamese bowls!

    • emma
      January 8, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      I'm loving my bowls too πŸ™‚ Cheers for suggesting I go back for more! xx

  • Katrina @ WVS
    January 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    This looks perfect, and I love when you talk about Vietnam! I would love to get there someday, so for now I have to live through you! xx

  • Lan | MoreStomach
    January 8, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    thoroughly enjoyed seeing your feed on IG. when you were in Vietnam, did you ever have any issues with food cleanliness. i fear that living in the states has either made me soft or entirely too cautious, and we were very particular with what we ate when we were there…

    • emma
      January 9, 2014 at 12:22 am

      Haha, love that 'has either made me soft or entirely too cautious'! I hear ya, but after years of travelling through third world countries when I was younger, I've learnt to just look the other way when food is being made! We ate everything, everywhere and not one of us got sick in Vietnam. Being vegetarian probably is helpful too, although Si ate all sorts of meat/fish dishes from the street stalls and was fine (he does have a lead-line stomach though!). Everything is so fresh in Vietnam and often you see your food being cooked right before your eyes only moments before you're served it on the side of the street, so we had no problems. I worried about the ice, occasionally (especially when you see the big dirty bags in which the blocks of ice are delivered in!), but again, no problems there either. I wouldn't drink the water over there though, and we used bottled water to brush teeth etc xx

  • dishing up the dirt
    January 8, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    This sounds absolutely perfect. Simple, clean, and delicious.

  • The KitchenMaid
    January 8, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    I so loved seeing your Vietnam pics on IG, it looked amazing. Your comment about the fruitshakes made me laugh – when I lived in Phnom Penh one of the first things I learned to say in Khmer was 'no sugar, no milk and egg' when ordering! Then I just learned to avert my eyes from all the other mysterious things that would go into one. And kang kong! So, so good. I will have to track some down…

    • emma
      January 9, 2014 at 12:26 am

      Haha, yes. I totally adverted my eyes when the spoonfuls of sugar were going in! I figured there could be worst things going in πŸ˜‰
      Also, you lived in Phnom Penh! How very cool. xx

  • Lindsey (dolly and oatmeal)
    January 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    What a perfect dish; all the flavors seem so perfect together, Emma. You got me super curious about water spinach, I will totally be on the look-out for those leafy greens! Your photos of Vietnam are beautiful, you really captured some lovely moments in time. Lastly, congrats on your Food & Wine interview! I loved reading each part!

    • emma
      January 9, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Thanks Lindsey! Have a google, there may even be another name that kang kong is known by in the states xx

  • Peggy
    January 9, 2014 at 12:25 am

    Kang kong is by far my favourite greens dish, it became my staple when I was travelling through Indonesia and Malaysia. Thanks for the recipe, can't wait to try this myself.

    Delightful photos, I look forward to seeing more Emm.

  • Gwen
    January 9, 2014 at 2:44 am

    I adore lemon grass but never seem to use it in my kitchen. So sad. I'm sure your dish is just as tasty as your MIL's but nostalgic principles must take precedence.

  • Khuong
    January 9, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    You definitely captured Vietnam beautifully in your photos. So good having our relatives there to really show you parts of Vietnam you wouldn't normally see or experience if you were just a regular tourist visiting the country. I found on my trip there, a real appreciation for the simple things that we take for granted everyday. But the thing that I really loved was that Vietnamese people in general are so kind and happy. Grateful for all that they have, which is sometimes very little. What a great first trip for the kids, to experience their Dad's country of birth. Photos are always gorgeous as always and good to see you in some of them too. Love this blog post Sis-in-law xx

  • Hannah Cordes
    January 9, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Family cooking is just the best! I love reading about your time in Vietnam and your photos are stunning. My brother is living in Hanoi right now and I enjoy following his adventures there. Lemongrass tofu is a favorite of ours and I'll have to make it at home now. Congratulations on the Food & Wine article!!! Wonderful to read more about you. I can't wait for your new book – keeping my fingers crossed for a US publication. πŸ™‚

  • Macaroons on Madison
    January 9, 2014 at 7:02 pm

    Your pictures are beautiful and the food looks amazing!

  • Elissa |Poor Man's Feast
    January 9, 2014 at 8:59 pm

    This so so lovely—-thank you for sharing.

  • Alessandra
    January 10, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Great photos, and love the tofu recipe πŸ™‚

    Ciao and Happy New Year

  • Adam
    January 11, 2014 at 12:35 am

    Gorgeous pictures and the recipe sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

  • Zinny | The Vanilla Hub
    January 12, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Simple and perfect!

  • Yead
    January 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    This is very nice.Great picture and great post.

  • Kari
    January 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I'm so pleased to have discovered your blog – I'm always keen to follow fellow Perth bloggers and your focus on plant based food is a bonus. I love the look of this and your photos are stunning.

    • emma
      January 26, 2014 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks Kari! And welcome πŸ™‚

  • Charlene Sim
    April 2, 2014 at 4:29 am

    Hi emm,

    I made the kang long and fried tofu for dinner last night. It was amazing. I was surprised how easy it was to prepare and I had dinner done in 10 minutes. πŸ™‚ my partner who is vegetarian loved it. He couldn't get enough of it and kept going back of seconds. Thank you so much for the recepie. πŸ™‚

    • emma
      April 3, 2014 at 6:00 am

      Yay! So stoked to hear you both loved it! xx

  • mattmelson
    April 16, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Thanks for the beautiful recipe and story, I loved Vietnam also. I'm lucky to be able to get kang kong regularly where I live from the local organic markets. Do you have any suggestions for alternatives to the garlic and chilli to cook it with? Thanks.