The book: “Vegetarian Viêt Nam,” by Cameron Stauch, W.W. Norton, $35

Published in 2018, this comprehensive cookbook by a Canadian chef who lives in Vietnam offers a window into the country’s longstanding vegetarian food traditions that are tied to its Buddhist heritage. Most of the recipes are vegan; a handful call for eggs or condensed (cow’s) milk. The book offers familiar recipes (among them, bánh mì sandwiches, taro root mung bean spring rolls, and sweetened sticky rice with shredded coconut) alongside dishes less familiar to a Western audience (tofu skin chips; translucent mung bean dumplings; young jackfruit salad; and vermicelli noodles with fresh turmeric, tofu and Chinese chives). “The Vietnamese vegetarian table is truly an ideal entry point for anyone who wants to experience the flavors of Southeast Asia,” Staunch writes. “Many of these recipes are quick and weeknight-friendly.”


Recipe from “Vegetarian Viêt Nam” by Cameron Stauch. “Tofu with fresh tomato sauce is common in homes and casual restaurants throughout Viet Nam. Think of it as the country’s spaghetti marinara,” Stauch writes.

Serves 4 as part of a multi-dish meal

¼ teaspoon Mushroom Powder (See recipe)

1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1½ inch cubes, plus oil for frying

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

¾ pound ripe plum tomatoes, finely chopped (1¾ cups)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water, mushroom-soaking liquid, or vegetable stock

¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro

Prepare the Mushroom Powder (recipe follows).

Tofu with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Shallow- or deep-fry the tofu cubes.

Heat the 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Toss in the tomatoes, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and mushroom powder. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks down. Add the water and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the fried tofu, the scallions, and black pepper and cook for another minute to coat the tofu lightly with the sauce. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

NOTE: When ripe tomatoes are not in season, substitute a small (14.5-ounce) can of plum tomatoes with their juices, roughly chopped, and reduce the cooking time by a few minutes.


“Mushroom powder is magical. It’s meaty, smoky, and filled with intense umami flavor,” Stauch writes. “I add it habitually in small amounts, like salt and pepper, to soups, stir-fries, and braises.”

Makes a scant ½ cup

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

Break the mushrooms into smaller pieces with your hands, scissors, or a knife. (Break off the hard stems of large shiitakes and store in the freezer to use when making vegetable stock.) Put into a spice or coffee grinder (or a blender with a narrow bowl) and grind for a couple of minutes. Stop occasionally to use a spoon or spatula to loosen any large pieces that may get stuck under the blades.

Tip the powder into a small bowl. Gently tap the grinder cover over the bowl or use a spatula or a clean, dry brush to collect any powder that has stuck to it.

Transfer to a clean, dry jar and store indefinitely in a cool, dry place.

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