Tomato, Lemongrass, and Tofu Soup

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This is probably my favorite non-fancy soups (fancy soups = soups that require a lot of prep and need to simmer to hours, like pho).  My mom used to make this one with spare ribs like the Chayote Squash Soup, but I find that I can get enough flavor without them.  Also, I’ve found that this is a good dish to make if you’re trying to introduce someone to tofu (so much of the flavor in the soup gets absorbed into the tofu that you can’t really taste it).

I love this soup too because it’s so easy to make. I like to buy lemongrass whenever I’m at a Vietnamese market then clean, cut, and freeze them so that it’ll be ready for whenever I need it. Vietnamese markets are so hard to find in LA (without having to drive all the way to the San Gabriel Valley), so when I do make the journey I make sure to stock up. The last time I went, I spoke to the cashier only in Vietnamese (since I never get to practice) and she said I was pretty good! My mom wasn’t as impressed by this story as she should have been…

Lemongrass, Tomato, and Tofu Soup
(serves 4)

2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
4 cups of water
2.5 tbsp fish sauce
3-4 stalks of lemongrass, lightly bruised (pound it down the stalk with the butt of your knife or a meat tenderizer) and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 a medium onion, halved down the core then thinly sliced
3 medium tomatoes
1 (14 oz) box of firm tofu
chopped cilantro, to garnish
chopped green onion, to garnish
steamed white rice, to serve

  1. Combine chicken broth, water, fish sauce, and lemongrass into a pot and bring to a boil.  Then let it simmer on low with the lid on.
  2. Cut tofu in half crosswise (hamburger, not hot dog).  Turn each half to their sides and cut them in half.  Turn each half back and cut tofu into .5 in x .5 in x .25 in blocks.
  3. Dump them in the pot and bring back to a boil.  Then simmer on low with the lid on.
  4. Cut tomatoes in half down the middle then each half into 4 wedges.
  5. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  When the oil starts to glisten, throw in the onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes.  Make sure to keep the onions moving the entire time or else it may start to burn.
  6. Take the skillet off the heat and use the tomatoes to shimmy the onions to one side.  Arrange all the tomatoes onto the skillet and put back onto the heat.
  7. Let them cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until they have some color on them.  Mix the onions around occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.
  8. Dump everything in the skillet into the pot.  Bring it back to a boil then simmer for at least 20 minutes on low with the lid on then turn the heat off and let it sit for at least another 20 minutes (the part that takes the longest is to get the tofu to absorb all the flavors of the soup.  I usually make this a day ahead and pop it in the fridge for it to have extra time to absorb).
  9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions and serve with steamed white rice.
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