“Yong Tau Foo”, which means “stuffed bean curd”, originated as tofu stuffed with a meat paste of fish and pork, thereby earning the dish its name. It has Hakka origins commonly found in China, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. There are also Teochew and Hokkien variations. Since the 1960s, all variety of vegetables and even fried fritters have been similarly stuffed, and the name Yong Tau Foo has thus been used to apply to food prepared in this manner.

Yong Tau Foo is essentially a clear broth/soup containing a varied selection of food items including fishballs, crabsticks, bittergourds, cuttlefish, lettuce, ladies fingers, as well as chilis, and various forms of fresh produce, seafood and meats common in Chinese cuisine. Some of these items, such as bittergourd and chilies, are usually filled with fish paste (ground white fish). They’re cooked briefly in boiling broth and then served either in the broth as soup or with the broth in a separate bowl with chili sauce and hoisin-based sauce dipping.

It’s quite difficult to find Yong Tau Foo in Europe and when the urge to have it strikes, one has got to make an effort to make it.

My favourite has always been fish paste stuffed in aubergine, fried tofu puffs and chillies with a side serving of clear broth/soup and chilli bean-hoisin sauce as a dipping sauce. I was so very happy when I managed to find ready-made fish paste at one of the big Asian supermarket. I made my Yong Tau Foo several times with the ready-made fish paste.

Recently, one of my friends, Lannie showed a few of us how to make our own fish paste. It was so simple and so tasty – unbelievable!! Thank you, Lannie!!

Ingredients for Fish Paste:

  • abt. 600 g panga fillet (can be frozen fillet but must be defrosted), cut into big chunks
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp pure sesame oil
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • dash of white pepper
  1. Blend fish chunks till a fine paste.
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it a few fast turns – abt 1 min – to mix all the ingredients together.
  3. Set aside.

You can use any kind of vegetables, e.g. aubergine/eggplant, chillies, okra/ladies finger, bittergourd, capsicum/paprika, courgette, etc. and fried tofu puffs/taufoo pok or fresh semi-hard tofu.


If using:

  • aubergine, courgette: slice sideways into abt 5cm thick pieces. Then make a slit in the middle of each piece where you stuff the fish paste.
  • bittergourd: slice into abt 3cm thick round pieces. Remove seeds and white centres. Stuff fish paste in the middle.
  • capsicum/paprika: any colour, cut into half, remove seeds and centre white stuff and stem. Stuff fish paste in the middle.
  • chillies: Big red ones or jalapenos or sweet yellow ones.  Can be prepared as with capsicum/paprika. Or remove stem, slit 1 side of chillies, remove seeds and white stuff in the middle, stuff fish paste in the middle.
  • fresh semi-hard tofu: Can be stuffed any way but the easiest and best way is to remove a little tofu from the middle of a square piece of abt 8-10cm and stuff fish paste into the hollowed tofu.
  • fried tofu puff/taufoo pok: Either cut puff into half and stuff fish paste into middle. Or make a slit, hollow out the middle and stuff fish paste into it. Or slit tofu puff, turn inside out, stuff fish paste into centre.

If serving with a clear broth:

boil 500ml water with 1 cube fish or anchovies cube stock.

Shallow-fry all the prepared vegetables and tofu in some vegetable oil in batches till cooked. Don’t overload the wok or pan.

Or alternately, you can steam all the prepared vegetables and tofu in batches till cooked.

Photos courtesy of Carol Eurlings

I prefer to shallow fry my Yong Tau Foo and then serving it with rice and a bowl of clear Anchovies (Ikan Bilis) broth/soup with Chilli Bean-Hoisin sauce. If there’s leftovers of the Yong Tau Foo, I’d put them in some soup stock with the sauce. Warmed up – it’s also delish.. 🙂

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