Yong Tau Foo is one of the popular Hakka Chinese dish made by stuffing meat and/or fish paste in tofu and vegetables such as bitter gourd, okra, peppers, eggplants, mushrooms, etc. It can be served in soup or dry with a sweet sauce.
SINGAPORE HAKKA YONG TAU FOO
Yong tau foo is a Hakka Chinese food, which literally means “stuffed tofu” Fish and/or meat paste is stuffed in tofu and bean curd skin, and hence the name. They are then deep-fried and served with soup. In Medan where I grew up, this is how they serve yong tau foo and they add fish balls, and bitter gourd stuff with fish paste. Even though it is said stuffed tofu, but tofu isn’t the only thing used to stuff with meat/fish filling.
In Singapore, the varieties of vegetables stuffed with meat or fish paste are even more. There are bitter gourd, okra (ladys’ fingers), large chili peppers, and eggplants. They can be served with soup or dry with the soup on the side and with some sweet sauce. The version I’m showing here is more of a Singapore hakka yong tau foo both dry version and soup version.
FILLING FOR HAKKA YONG TAU FOO
Majority of people use fish paste to make yong tau foo, but actually, a mixture of ground pork and fish paste can be used. My kids like the combination of pork and fish. The meat fish paste filling is very simple to make. You only need ground pork, fish paste, cornstarch, salted fish, and seasonings. The addition of salted fish really kicks it up a notch. We love it.
VEGETABLES TO USE
I used bitter gourd, Chinese eggplant, okra, shiitake mushrooms, and tofu. I couldn’t find any large red chili peppers and fried bean curd skin. Usually those two are commonly used to make yong tau foo as well.
STEAM OR FRIED YONG TAU FOO. YOU CHOOSE!
Traditionally, the yong tau foo items are deep-fried, but it’s not like anything is set in stone. I steamed some of mine too for a lighter version.
HOW TO MAKE HAKKA YONG TAU FOO
STEP ONE: PREPARE THE FILLING
I use both ground pork, ground fish meat, and a little bit of salted fish, and seasonings like salt, sugar, and ground white peppercorns for the filling
Cover and chill the filling while you prepare other things
STEP TWO: PREPARE THE VEGGIES
Soak the shiitake mushrooms in warm water until plump. Cut the bitter gourd into 1-inch rings and discard the seeds in the middle. Slice the okra into half vertically and clear the seeds. Hollow out some of the tofu pieces (you can add the tofu into the filling to avoid waste). Cut the eggplant into about 1/2-inch slices
STEP THREE: FILL THEM UP
Use a spoon or table knife to scoop some filling to fill up the vegetables. Make sure you kinda overfill them a bit as they will shrink when cooked and get dislodged from the veggies. For eggplant, smear the filling on one piece of eggplant and then sandwiched with the other piece
STEP FOUR: COOKING
Deep-frying: Fry all the items over medium to high heat until they are cooked through. Some vegetables take a bit longer than the other to cook
Steaming: Arrange the yong tau foo items on a steaming plate and then steam over high heat for 15 minutes or until the veggies are soft (not mushy) and meat is cooked through
STEP FIVE: PREPARE THE SWEET SAUCE AND SOUP
SWEET SAUCE: Stir fry the minced garlic for about 30 seconds, add water, followed by ground bean sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Stir until the sugar melted. Thickened with cornstarch
SOUP: Use a homemade or store-bought chicken stock and then add anchovies (ikan bilis) and soy beans and boil for about 30 minutes. Strain the soup and discard the solid. Season with salt,pepper, and sugar to your taste
HOW TO SERVE HAKKA YONG TAU FOO (2 WAYS)
SOUP VERSION: Arrange pieces of yong tau foo items in a bowl. Generously ladle the hot soup over them. Garnish with green onion
DRY WITH SWEET SAUCE: Arrange pieces of yong tau foo items in a bowl. You can serve the sauce on the side or drizzle them on top of the yong tau foo. Your call! You can also make the sauce not as thick if you like it a bit runnier.
I love both soup version (which is the version I grew up eating) and the dry version with sweet sauce (which is one of my favorite Singapore’s food)
HOW TO MAKE AHEAD AND STORE YONG TAU FOO
Yong tau foo can be made ahead and then freeze in the freezer. Simply place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, not touching each other and freeze for about 1 hour and then transfer to freezer bag or container and they won’t stick to each other anymore. When ready to cook, do not thaw and just steam or deep fry the yong tau foo.
I’m pretty good at balancing these yong tau foo don’t you think? LOL!
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Please weigh ingredients with a digital kitchen scale instead of using measuring cups as they are not very accurate especially when it comes to recipe that requires precision.
- 350 gr ground pork
- 350 gr fish paste - use store-bought fish paste or use white fish fillet and ground it up into paste
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 20 gr salted fish
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 stalks green onion - finely chopped
- 5 -6 tofu puffs
- 1/2 large block of firm tofu - if not using tofu puffs
- 1 medium Chinese eggplant
- 1 large bitter gourd
- 6 okra (lady's finger)
- 6 large shiitake mushrooms - soaked until soft if using dried
- 1 stalk green onions - finely chopped
Preparing the soup (if serving with soup):
- Place the chicken stock in a medium pot. Bring to a boil. Add the anchovies, soy beans, better than bouillon (if using). Bring back to a boil and then lower the heat to let it gently simmer for the next 30 minutes. Turn off the heat. Strain and discard solid. Season with salt and sugar to your taste
Prepare the sweet sauce:
- Preheat a small sauce pan. Add cooking oil. Stir fry the minced garlic for about 30 seconds, add water, followed by ground bean sauce, hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is melted. Give the cornstarch solution a stir and then pour in and continue to stir until the sauce is thickened
Preparing the filling:
- Place the filling ingredients in a food processor, except for green onion, and process into a paste. Alternatively, you can chop manually by hand until they are fine and can form a paste. Add the chopped green onion and mix again. Cover and chill in the refrigerator while you are preparing other things
Preparing the veggies:
- Soak the dried shiitake mushroom in warm water until soft. Remove the stems. Cut the firm tofu in 6 large pieces. Use a small spoon to scoop out the middle of each piece (be careful not to tear it apart). Save the tofu that you scoop out as we will mix it into the meat paste. Use a knife to finely chop up the tofu that you scoop out (we will mix this with the meat to reduce waste). Set aside
- Cut both ends of bitter gourd off and then slice into 1 -inch ring. Use your thumb to push out the seeds in the middle of each ring and discard the seeds. Slice the okra in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out. Slice the eggplants into 1/2 inch pieces
Stuffing the filling:
- Use a spoon or table knife to scoop the filling. Kinda overstuff the meat a little bit to the side and at the top, because the meat paste will shrink when you steam it and it looks nice because it fills up the hole nicely and firmly
If you choose to steam:
- Prepare a steamer by bringing the water to a rolling boil. Place all the yong tau foo items on the steaming tray. You may need to do this in several batches as you don't want to overcrowd your steamer. Steam for about 15 minutes or until the meat is cooked through (it will change color when it cooks) and veggies are soft (but not mushy)
If you choose to deep fry:
- Fry all the items over medium to high heat until they are cooked through. Some vegetables take a bit longer than the other to cook
Serving soup version:
- When ready to serve, arrange pieces of yong tau foo items in a bowl. Generously ladle the hot soup over them. Garnish with green onion
Serving dry with sweet sauce:
- Arrange pieces of yong tau foo items in a bowl. You can serve the sauce on the side or drizzle them on top of the yong tau foo. Your call!