Yong Tau Foo is a traditional Hakka Chinese cuisine from Southern China, comprising mainly of tofu that are stuffed with either minced meat mixture made from pork, salted fish and fish paste or just fish paste only. Variation of this dish include using fish paste as stuffing for not only tofu, but include other vegetables like eggplants, bitter melon (bitter gourd), okra (lady’s fingers), chillies, bean curd skin and shiitake mushrooms. You can also use bell peppers, capsicums and yellow squash. In addition, the fish paste can be made into fish balls and fish cakes. Then the stuffed pieces can be cooked in a clear broth, pan fried or deep dried, even braised in a yellow bean sauce. Yong tau foo can be served with steamed rice, noodles soup, dry noodles or with laksa soup or curry sauce. Alternatively, this dish can be served with dipping sauces like black bean sauce or hoisin sauce. For my gluten free recipe, I am using mackerel fish paste to stuff puff tofu pieces and vegetables including purple eggplants, bitter melon, red chillies, green chillies and okra. The condiment is made from gluten free black bean sauce, gluten free sweet chilli sauce, diced red chilli and spring onions and garnish with coriander. This recipe is not only naturally gluten free, it is also dairy free, egg free, nut free and corn free.
Highly regarded as one of the most popular Hakka dish in South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, as well as in China. Commonly served as a street food or hawker food and specialty chain restaurants in these countries. In Australia, some Chinese yum cha restaurants serve stuffed eggplants or stuffed tofu with minced meat mixture and braised in yellow bean sauce as dim sums. This is a very healthy and delicious dish for any special occasions, especially for the holiday seasons, it is also a fantastic showpiece on a platter for all your family and friends.
Mackerel is an oily fish that is not only rich in protein but also has very high level of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It is also an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin B3 (niacin), vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid), vitamin B12, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K and choline. Minerals are also abundant in this fish, including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, selenium and zinc. Mackerel also has the antioxidant coenzyme Q10.
The health benefits of eating oily fish like mackerel, salmon, sardine and halibut are well known. Some of the many health benefits are the essential fatty acids in the oily fish help thin the blood and result in better blood flow, lower blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol in the body, improving cardiovascular health by preventing heart and coronary heart diseases. The coenzyme Q10 prevents cell damage and together with omega-3 fatty acids may prevent breast, prostate and bowel cancers. The high level of omega-3 fatty acids help promote healthy central nervous system and prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3 fatty acids also has anti-inflammatory composite that help reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
- Rice bran oil for pan frying
- Steamed rice or cooked dry gluten free noodles for serving optional
For the Fish Paste:
- 1 large Spanish mackerel 2kg/4Ib, cleaned, gutter and filleted with skin on by your fish monger (about 1kg/2Ib of mackerel flesh)
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
For the vegetables and tofu:
- 200 g 7oz gluten free puff tofu, cut into triangles (halved diagonally), then make a small cut in the middle of the cut side
- 2 medium purple eggplants or aubergines choose the long and slimmer ones, sliced into 1 inch pieces crosswise, then slice horizontally across the middle until almost cut through
- 2 medium bitter melon bitter gourd 250g/9oz each, seeds removed and sliced into 2cm pieces crosswise
- 6 fresh long red chillies cut in the middle lengthwise and seeds removed
- 6 fresh long green chillies cut in the middle lengthwise and seeds removed
- 10 okra lady’s fingers, cut in the middle lengthwise and remove some seeds
For the Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons rice bran oil
- 2 garlic cloves finely minced
- 5 cm ginger peeled and finely grated
- 2 spring onions shallots, thinly sliced lengthwise
- 2 fresh long red chillies finely diced
- 5 tablespoons gluten free black bean sauce
- 4 tablespoons gluten free sweet chilli sauce Lingham’s
- 2 tablespoons stevia or raw brown sugar
- 1 large lemon juiced
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 cups water
- 2 sprigs of coriander finely sliced
For the fish paste:
- Using a large chopping board and with a small spoon, scrape the fish meat from the fish skin and place in a large bowl.
- Then put all the fish meat into a food processor and blend briefly for around 1 minute to form a thick fish puree paste. Mackerel meat is naturally sticky, do not over-process the fish meat otherwise they will become very tough.
- Return the fish paste to the large bowl and marinate with salt and ground white pepper.
For stuffing the vegetables and tofu:
- Using wet hands, stuff all the vegetables and tofu with some of the fish paste. For the chillies and okra, use a small butter knife to help fill the cavities. Clean any fish paste on sides of the vegetables.
- Avoid overfilling with the fish paste to prevent tearing during cooking. Place all the stuffed pieces on a large plate or tray.
For cooking the stuffed vegetables and tofu:
- Heat up the non-stick frying pan again with some rice bran oil. Pan fry all the stuffed vegetables for 2 minutes on each side or until fish paste is just cooked on low to medium heat. For the stuffed puff tofu, pan fry for 1 minute on each side or until fish paste is just cooked on low heat. Serve on a large platter.
For cooking the sauce:
- Heat up a frying pan with 3 tablespoons of rice bran oil. Pan fry the garlic and ginger on low heat until lightly golden, then add in all the black bean sauce, sweet chilli sauce, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest and stir-fry for 2 minutes on low to medium heat.
- Follow by adding in the water, stir well and bring to a boil. Add in half the chillies and all the spring onion and turn off the heat. Place in a medium serving bowl and garnish with remaining chillies and coriander. Serve as a dipping sauce or drizzle sauce.