Mock Fish Recipe: Pan Fried Seaweed Tofu

Mock Fish Recipe: Pan Fried Seaweed Tofu Recipe

Cá chiên chay (vegetarian fried fish in Vietnamese) is my attempt to eat approximately the same dish as my vegetarian husband, Lulu. It doesn't bother him so much, but it makes me a little sad that even when we share a meal, we're not actually eating the same thing. I cooked fish for myself today, and I whipped up a mock fish equivalent dish using tofu skin, crumbled tofu and seaweed to go alongside it. The result was surprisingly delicious. Lulu enjoyed his vegetarian meal and I enjoyed my fish as well.

I paired the "fish" with jasmine rice and canh mồng tơi (broth with leafy greens). The meal remained healthy yet very tasty.


Yields: 8 servings

8 ounces rolled tofu skin, shredded + 4 sheets
1 (16-ounce) package firm tofu
2 egg whites
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 tablespoon green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste (see tips), finely minced
1 teaspoon sugar
½ carrot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon potato starch
4 wood ear mushrooms, finely chopped
1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
2 ounces dried bean thread noodles
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 toasted nori sheets, as needed
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1 tablespoon cilantro


Prepping the tofu: Cut the tofu into ½" slices. Blanch the tofu for about 3-4 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain the liquid. Let the tofu cool a little. Once the tofu is cool enough to handle, mash the boiled tofu with your hands using disposable gloves. The tofu should resemble large-sized cottage cheese curds. Set aside.

Prepping the bean thread noodles: Place the dried bean thread noodles in a bowl. Soak them in lukewarm water for at least 15 minutes and drain. Cut into 1 inch lengths. Set aside. Note: Don't forget to cut the little cotton threads and discard them.

Assembly time:

Soak 4 sheets of defrosted tofu skin in water. Pat dry. 

In a large non-stick pan, heat the oil. Add the shallots and cook until lightly golden. 

In a large bowl, combine the tofu, bean thread noodles, tofu skin, ginger garlic paste, fried shallots, green onions, carrot, sugar, chopped cilantro, potato starch and wood ear mushrooms. Add the egg whites and season with soy sauce, mushroom seasoning salt and black pepper.

Line a sushi mat with plastic-wrap on both sides. Place a nori sheet on the mat. Wet your hands with warm water and spoon 2 handfuls of the tofu mixture on the nori. Spread it evenly, stopping ½-inch before the end of the rectangle. Gently press so the mixture adheres to the nori sheet. Using the sushi mat as a guide, tightly and slowly roll the sushi mat away from you until the mixture meets the other end to seal the tofu roll. Press gently with both your hands for  about 10 seconds. Remove the rolled tofu and transfer to a sheet of tofu skin, seam side down. Wrap the roll. Repeat the same procedure 3 times.

Place the stuffed rolls in a steamer. Fill the steamer with water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-high. Cover and steam for about 30-40 minutes. The rolls should be soft and tender but still firm (not falling apart). Remove from the steamer. Let them cool a little. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. 

Remove and discard the tofu skin wrapping. In the same pan used for the shallots, pan fry the rolls. Transfer to a cutting board. Dip a very sharp kitchen knife in hot water and wipe it clean. Cut the rolls in half, then in half one more time. You'll obtain 4 pieces. Repeat the same procedure with the 3 remaining rolls, wiping the knife clean after slicing each roll. 

Return the individual tofu rolls to the pan and pan fry until lightly golden.

I served the rolls with jasmine rice and a dipping sauce of the side (recipe follows). Garnish with cilantro.



You can find tofu skin (also known as yuba or bean curd skin) in the frozen food aisle of any Asian markets in the Bay Area of California (I go to a Korean specialty market). The thin sheets of tofu are stacked, then rolled like a sausage. You could make the same dish using rehydrated yuba if the fresh or frozen version isn't available.

Fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms
Fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms.

You can find wood ear mushrooms in Asian stores. If you can't find any, you can use the dried version.

Don't over-stuff the nori sheet or the tofu roll will burst; the diameter of the roll should measure about 2 inches.

I use Wang brand nori sheets. They also make a delicious snack and are a great source of protein and iron. 

I used Vinh Khang brand firm tofu, which is freshly made daily. There are two locations in the Bay Area: Vinh Khang Tofu, 141 Dixon Road, Milpitas, CA 95035 and 2955 Senter Road #80, San Jose, Ca 95111. There's also a location in Southern California.

I use ginger garlic paste a lot in my cooking. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then finely chop the root. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and, add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the tofu filling. You can find it at gourmet specialty stores or in most Korean stores. I buy mine at Marina Foods -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.

For the dipping sauce: In a small sauce pan, combine ¾ cup soy sauce, ½ cup rice wine vinegar and 2 teaspoons sugar. Bring to a boil and reduce for 3 minutes until slightly thickened. Let cool to room temperature. 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 30, 2012.


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