Before lightly frying the tofu, the surface is dusted with turmeric and coated them with minced lemongrass and chili peppers. The fried tofu and vermicelli rice noodles sit on a bed of chopped lettuce and fresh aromatic herbs. The noodle bowl is dressed with a drizzle of a Vietnamese fish sauce mix before serving. This is an ideal summer dish that minimizes stove and prep time, yet doesn’t skimp on flavor.
Cook the rice noodles in a pot of salted boiling water. Allow to cook for about 7-9 minutes, while stirring gently with chopsticks. The noodles will become opaque as they cook. I usually verify that the noodles are cooked by tasting a strand. It should be a little softer than al dente, but not soggy. Once the noodles are cooked, drain them in a colander and rinse with cold water. Give the colander a few shakes to drain any excess water and set aside.
Preparing and cooking the tofu
Pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Then, cut them into 6x3 cm rectangle slabs, about 1.5 cm thick. Mix the salt and tumeric in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly on the surface of the tofu slabs. Coat each side of the tofu slabs with the lemongrass, pressing firmly to ensure that the lemongrass doesn’t fall off. Then top with some chili pepper.
Pour enough oil into a 12” frying pan to reach a depth of about 1 cm, and heat over medium heat until hot. To test if oil is hot enough, insert the tip of a wooden chopstick into the oil and it should start bubbling around the chopstick. Place the slabs of tofu into the oil and allow to cook until the underside is golden. Carefully flip and continue cooking until the other side is also golden. Cook time for each side is about 3-4 minutes.
Assembling the noodle bowl
Place the chopped herbs and lettuce at the bottom of a bowl. Then, top with the noodles, sliced cucumbers and tofu. Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of nuoc mam (or according to taste) over the noodles. Mix thoroughly and enjoy.
*An assortment of any of the following herbs: red perilla (tía tô), basil (quế), fish mint (diếp cá), spearmint (húng lũi), cilantro (ngò)