Beef and fermented tofu soup

Beef and fermented tofu soup

Leanne Kitchen

We’re not quite sure where or when we first had this, but the inspiration is Vietnamese and it’s one of our all-time favourite soups. The crucial element here is fermented tofu, an ingredient of Chinese origin, which is also much-loved in Vietnam. It smells a bit funky, as any fermented food is wont to do, but it adds an incredible piquancy and burst of umami, and nothing else will really do in its place. It’s cheap to buy and easy to find in Asian supermarkets, and comes in a few guises and flavours. However, you need the red variety here. Fermented tofu lasts for a long time in the refrigerator.


Quantity Ingredient
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
500g beef fillet, trimmed and cut into 5 mm slices


Quantity Ingredient
3 pieces fermented red tofu, plus 2 teaspoons of the liquid
2 1/2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
3 teaspoons caster sugar
5 store-bought pickled garlic cloves, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
4 red bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced


Quantity Ingredient
150g dried cellophane (bean thread) noodles
1.5 litres Beef stock
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
500g chinese cabbage (wombok), thinly sliced
large handful coriander leaves, coarsely chopped


  1. Combine the fish sauce, sugar, soy sauce and egg in a large bowl and whisk to mix well. Add the pepper and beef and stir to coat the beef. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. For the sauce, put the fermented tofu and tofu liquid in a bowl and, using a fork, mash well. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to mix well. Set aside.
  3. For the soup, put the noodles in a large bowl, pour over enough cold water to cover then stand for 25 minutes or until softened. Drain well then, using kitchen scissors, cut into 5 cm lengths.
  4. Combine the stock, fish sauce and soy sauce in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the noodles and cabbage and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Cook for 2–3 minutes or until the noodles are soft. Add the beef mixture, stirring constantly to separate the slices. Bring to a simmer then cook for 2–3 minutes or until the beef is tender. Stir in the coriander. Divide among large serving bowls and serve with the sauce for drizzling over and the extra pickled garlic on the side.
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